In my earlier blog post, I described the mood of the country with regards to the new government as “cautiously optimistic.” Of course, that’s a gargantuan oversimplification, and the better term may be “conflicted”, especially among the youth. Many of the young people I know in India, though they acknowledge and appreciate Modi’s history of economic development in Gujarat, they – and many others, especially internationally – remember the 2002 riots in Gujarat as well. A non-secular, Hindu nationalist leader in a Parliament with no Opposition leader makes a lot of people uneasy: and seeing as a lot of my friends are Muslims, LGBT/allies, or simply more Liberal, I am used to such unease and cautiousness. But not everyone is so doubtful, having voted for the lesser of two evils (“At least Modi will do something, a friend commented”). Some, indeed, are ecstatic.
Sarah and I spoke to one such today, a man who was as fiery in his language as he was fixed in his convictions. Modi was the future, he insisted, and to hell with the ineffectual left. A nationalist himself, and working for economic development in rural India, he was dismissive of American and its universities (Penn included), MBA students (of who he has three interns), and Amartya Sen (because of his economic views). “We don’t need America,” he insisted, “Or you business school students with your ‘models’ and ‘frameworks’. You don’t understand true India.” Abrasive as he was, he had me thinking.
Politics is one subject where it is easy to shore up your own biases, and to only read opinions that agree with your own, and talk to like-minded people about the same. I honestly hadn’t heard opinions like his before, and I realized that I tune out and dismiss viewpoints that disagree with my own political principles. It is so important, I think, to always challenge your beliefs – and to hone what you truly believe in. With my new interest in public policy and the principles behind setting it, I have resolved to keep questioning what I hear, and remember to keep in mind that other viewpoints. I am not a very opinionated person – but even if I do form strong opinions on something, I’m going to remember to always keep checking them, and to keep the opposing viewpoint in mind.
His views on business school students resonated with me as well. Though I thought he did his MBA interns – and really, us too – a disservice by being broadly scornful of them, I did understand some of his frustration. Too often, I think, students from places like Wharton or other such believe that our education entitles us to parachute in on an organization and immediately Start. Making. Changes. We are enamored by optimization, and efficiency, and yes, the underlying belief that our education is superior and we cannot waste time on doing mundane tasks such as actually understanding the company. We need deliverables and frameworks and projects. I understand his scorn for what he thinks is arrogance (though I do not accept it). Sometimes I think we are too entitled, too wrapped up in the glory of our educational institutions – as students and new employees, we need to be patient, to do mundane tasks, to understand the people and way of working, inefficient or strange as it might seem to us.
So while I want to end this internship excited about my work, and the things I will have accomplished and learned, I am also using it as an opportunity to broaden my mind, to seek out opposing views and form my own opinions instead of blindly following what I read or hear from friends. After all, that is the purpose of travel, isn’t it?
Next time: Less contemplation, more monkeys and football.