Friday, February 29, 2008

Back to School: US or India?

In a recent move, IIM Calcutta and Ahmedabad have hiked their fee for the two-year postgraduate management programme (PGP) by Rs. one lakh, reports the Business Standard. This raises fees to Rs. three lakh per student this year with a proposed increase to Rs. four lakh per student from 2009, and there are plans to further increase fee structures. With this change, the two schools are likely to have sparked off a trend among the other premier business schools of their fraternity, with several management aspirants in the country required to shell out the additional amount. This raises the concern that quality education in our country could become a privelege only of the affluent. This, in a system that already possesses absurd competition for admission. Seventy five percent of the seats are of general category, where almost 195,000 students compete for less than 1200 seats through the CAT based open competition method. IIM Ahmedabad is cited as a business school that is possibly one of most difficult to get into in the world and IIM Bangalore has an applicant acceptance to its postgraduate programme of as low as 0.2%.

This latest fee hike comes at a time when many Ivy League colleges in the US have recently increased their financial aid to middle class families. For example, Brown University announced that families earning less than $60,000 annually would have to contribute nothing towards a Brown education whereas families of incomes lesser than $100,000 would receive aid packages, entirely free of loans. And families earning more than $100,000 would receive aid in the form of loans but at highly reduced amounts. Brown has followed in the steps of Stanford that announced its drive to step up financial aid to middle class families last week, as did Harvard and Yale last year. This initiative takes shape despite these institutions having endowment funds of more than $1 billion each.

As of 2007, US embassies recorded an all time high of over 80,000 students leaving Indian shores to US for higher studies. It makes one wonder about the future of India with a chunk of the country’s brains leaving to contribute in another. But then again, when a world-class education is available for much less, or at least with much more aid to make it possible, along with hassle free procedures, can you blame those who leave? In view of these events, perhaps the IIMs should review their move. It might be difficult to retain a reputation of being a group of some of the best business schools in the world when a large number of prospective students find academic acceptance and financial assistance elsewhere.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thank you Mr. Hosseini

Last night I turned the last page of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
During the three days that I spent reading it, I was transported to war torn Kabul, I was a silent spectator to Tariq and Laila's love story and I so desperately wanted to reach out to Mariam for all that she goes through. No matter what I write in this space, it will never do justice to the book. I can go on for pages as to how fantastic I thought it was, but you really have to read it, experience it, to understand. Khaled Hosseini is a brilliant writer. In simple language that you and I use every day, he tells a story of epic proportions. He reminds you to be grateful that you live in a country where you don't have to worry about rockets whizzing past your ear, threatening to blow off a limb or consume loved ones in its fiery path. It makes you grateful to be able to crawl into bed at night and sleep in peace without fear that someone much stronger than you might just snuff the life out of you, while you lie wrapped in slumber. You count your blessings for your body not having to undergo brutal torture at the hands of a person whose eyes sparkle with perverse joy in watching the metal clasp of a belt buckle get embedded and entangled in your skin, before coming loose, leaving a mass of mangled flesh at the point of contact, having caused injury and blood to gush forth from more than just your physical form. And your heart goes out to the characters - to Laila for having to live a lie for so many years, to Aziza for being deprived of a father's love for so long, to Tariq, most definitely to Mariam and Nana and a mix of anger and sympathy to Jalil. Here was a man who wanted to be a good father, but failed miserably, torn between moral obligation and societal embarassment. The story couldn't have ended any better. This was the first book that made me cry - actually cry. I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I went through parts of the text. I grew, I changed, I was inspired as I read this book. On the back of the paperback copy that I was reading, Glamour Magazine had written, 'Only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved'. I'm most grateful to be alive from within.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Search Ends Here

Google is one of the greatest manmade gifts to mankind.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Unwedded bliss

Laws that govern live in relationships in India are fast changing.

The Supreme Court recently set a precedent granting a woman succession rights despite his legally-wedded wife being alive. The woman was awarded a succession certificate on the grounds that the children born out of the relationship were legitimate.

For a country that has long believed in the institution of marriage and have associated it with everything sacred, it seems that the legal system in our country is moving towards a more tolerant mode of functioning deeming couples that have lived together for several years as a husband and wife would be entitled to the same rights that married people enjoy being directed by only certain basic premises such as no one should dispute their union of being one of marriage.

So what brings about the change? The occurrence of more such arrangements in urban India? A change in mindset towards marriage itself? Or a drastic change in lifestyles that leaves little time to worry about who’s sleeping with who?

Perhaps it’s all these reasons more. But what really seems to be at play, or atleast what hopefully is the case, is that our judiciary is making a firm divide between the moral and legal aspect of its functioning. In a country that is so heavily determined by tradition and culture, the Indian public is gradually learning to separate morality from formal decisions – a subconscious tendency that has long been intricately woven into the nation’s social fabric.

Earlier, the legal wife garnered all the sympathy from the public, press and court, irrespective of what the circumstances were while the mistress was always seen as wrong in every sense of the term – rubbish that needed to be rid off at the earliest.

However, now the trend seems inclined towards ruling that it makes an infinite amount of sense for the partner who has spent her entire life sharing living space with a man and borne his children, who in society fulfills the role of a wife for all practical purposes be granted benefits from insurance policies and entitled to other such settlements as opposed to someone with whom nuptial rites have solely been exchanged.

Because it takes more than a piece of paper to create a marriage. And it seems that our country is finally realizing that.