Featured Posts

THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION "There is no penumbra of approbation round the theory of equilibrium. Equilibrium is just equilibrium." Discuss. Yes, this was a question we had in our Economics paper...

Read more

Swami Vivekananda at Harvard Swami Vivekananda’s stay at Harvard , although well documented, presents many incidents that have been relatively unnoticed. This, the 150th year of Swamiji’s  birth anniversary, is an appropriate...

Read more

Vishwanath’s First Century and a Kick start to my... It is amazing how a small incident can make a crucial difference to your life and career. This was what Vishwanath’s test debut did to me. I was a relatively junior official in my company. I knew I was...

Read more

Meeting Satyajit Ray......and into Ashani Sanket (Satyajit Ray and I have had very little in common, personally and certainly not professionally. Most mornings I drove past Ray's house on Bishop Lefroy  Road and parked my car close by. I had, however...

Read more

AMRITABHASHINI and its Fading Footprints In the Wikipedia pages on Kottakkal, there is a mention of Amrutabhashini . I quote ,” The development activities of women included modern publications such as Amritha Bhashini and Bala Chandrika, published...

Read more

  • Prev
  • Next

THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION

Category : Miscellany

THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION

“There is no penumbra of approbation round the theory of equilibrium. Equilibrium is just equilibrium.” Discuss.

Yes, this was a question we had in our Economics paper the year I joined the BA (Hons) Economics course. The answer is clear and simple: it is like saying 2+2=4 whether you like it or not : there is nothing you can do about it.

The quote is from Lionel Robbins’ book based on his lecture “ The Nature and Significance of Economics”. For Robbins, this may have been an esoteric way of bringing home a point to the Cambridge school, that economics is concerned with cause and effect , with actions and outcomes , with scarce resources that have to be deployed to achieve chosen ends ; that it is not the business of economists to give prescriptions. Yet that statement , out of context, sounds mystifying and non-communicative.

A few years later I had the privilege of attending Robbins’ lectures : the great man was anything but jargon: there was a flow that was easy, effortless and enjoyable. I admired the flow of his thoughts in lucid and understandable language- although my views on many of the issues he discussed had already been shaped by the ‘welfare’ economists of a different kind.

Economists themselves have been some of the worst critics of this style of communication.Listen to this, from the great economist Galbraith, “‘Economics is a subject profoundly conducive to cliche, resonant with boredom. On few topics is an American audience so practiced in turning off its ears and minds. And none can say that the response is ill advised.”

James Gingerly once wrote in the Guardian on economic journalism with the following extract from a report the Telegraph describing the Greek financial crisis:

“Late on Wednesday night, the governing council of the ECB decided that it would no longer accept Greek sovereign debt as collateral for its loans. Greece’s junk-rated bonds had been the subject of a “waiver”, where the central bank accepted sovereign and bank debt as security in return for cheap ECB funding.”
Gingerly adds,
“I’m a fairly intelligent man. I am deeply interested in foreign affairs. Yet I have only the vaguest sense of what the above means. Does “sovereign debt” or “junk-rated bonds” or, in this context, “collateral” mean much to the average person? Have any of these phrases truly entered the public consciousness? I would argue not. A recent survey of 1,500 University of Manchester students would agree with me. Only 40% of them could even properly define GDP. “

As a student of economics, I used to wonder why economists made simple things difficult by couching them in a language that most people would not understand. I don’t anymore. I have myself been guilty of that , while teaching management courses, preferring jargon that perhaps stifled more than stimulated thinking. We teachers often become slaves of jargons and cliches, of codes and symbols and fail to share meaning.

I have come across some explanations but none very satisfying: that economists talk largely to economists and when they do talk to others they use the same language: that while talking to politicians and policy makers at the highest level it is prudent to be ambiguous: that they are poor at predicting and excel in rationalising why their predictions did not materialise..

Perhaps teaching economics is very different today. There are even books on Commonsense Economics, But that ‘penumbra of approbation’ does pop up in my mind often, as it did when I first went in to teach managerial economics.

Meeting Satyajit Ray……and into Ashani Sanket

Category : Miscellany

(Satyajit Ray and I have had very little in common, personally and certainly not professionally. Most mornings I drove past Ray’s house on Bishop Lefroy  Road and parked my car close by. I had, however never thought of meeting Ray, let alone, discussing his films. Yet I did meet him once…)

I had seen most of Satyajit Ray’s films, many without subtitles, in Calcutta’s theatres and had just started going to the Sunday morning shows of a film society. The film society movement owed its existence to Ray; it was pretty active in the 1970’s and 80’s and had   produced renowned directors like Basu Chatterjee, Kantilal Rathod and Shyam Benegal. I had heard something about Ray’s shooting style and schedules from my colleague in Metal Box, Dhritiman Chatterjee, who had an offer for the principal role in Ray’s film Pratidhwandhi and had just finished shooting. Dhritiman was a management trainee and it took a great deal of pleading and the intervention of a Director, for the British company to bend its rules and let him take two months off for shooting.

→ Continue

Another Family Reunion

Category : Miscellany

Family Reunion-May 11, 2014

The Kizhakke Covilagam family reunion I attended in 2010 was my first experience of attending the annual family meet, started ten years ago. I attended it a second time the following year and then again this year. For the first time a Zamorin was present. → Continue

DR K C K E Raja

Category : Miscellany

FOND MEMORIES – Of Dr Kuttiettan Raja

(Of a Life that made a difference to many lives.)

At the age of twelve, I was told by my mother and uncle that I would shift permanently and pursue my school and college studies in Delhi. My uncle took charge of my life from then onwards and I spent over 19 years, the most impressionable years of my life with him. Till his death in 1963, he tried to give me the best he could.

Today, at a distance of 48 years, I can perhaps see and feel his presence with a deep sense of love and gratitude. I am recording for my own satisfaction observations on what I have seen and heard of him during those years.

As a member of what was once one of the most orthodox families in Kerala, he had many firsts. He was the first member of our family (all three branches) to become a medical doctor, the first to go abroad for higher studies (going abroad was then frowned upon by the conservative, senior members of the family) the first Indian to hold the highest post in health administration in India.

→ Continue

The Japanese Threat and the Long March to Kozhichena

Category : Miscellany

As I drove from Kozhikode to Kottakkal last summer, my eyes suddenly spotted the word Kozhichena on a small signpost. Did it ring a bell? It did. Of my first and only visit more than 60 years ago, under strange circumstances. Of the Japanese threat and of our school’s long march to Kozhichena in my second year in high school.

Kozhichena’s claim to recognition lay in its being the training hub of the Malabar Special Police (MSP). The MSP was a para military force , set up by the British Raj soon after the Moplah Rebellion in 1921,to handle all forms of disorder in the Malabar region which then was part of the Madras Presidency. The MSP was  specially trained in the brutal tactics of torture. Even we , the children, had heard of their skills of savagery. In the pre- independence period,MSP used their tactics indiscriminately on whoever fell into their hands, be they communists, communalists or congressmen.

Kozhichena was known for little else. ..Till, one day in 1942, an incident suddenly gave it a brief moment of heightened attention. → Continue

Kottakkal and the Malabar Six

Category : Miscellany

This is a slice of an educational experience I had during early schooling at Kottakkal. An experience that is almost a forgotten dream from a mythical past. Days at school filled with fun, frolic and yes, fear.

I studied up to the III Form (8th Std) at Kottakkal before my mother and uncle decided to shift me to Delhi. In the best Mrumakkkathayam tradition, my uncle decided to take care of me , his only sister’s only son. This meant our shifting to New Delhi when I was only twelve.
→ Continue

A Family Reunion

Category : Miscellany

Return to Kottakkal

A recent visit to my birthplace, Kottakkal, after a gap of 22 years, triggered in me a strong urge to dive deep into my family history.

I visited Kottakkal to attend a family reunion.  The place had changed beyond recognition and to my family, I too had. Our annual get-togethers started six years ago and have done much to bring together a family, which the Hindu reported, has 250 members.. Together with  spouse and children of male members, who are not family members in a matriarchal community, the number  in the extended family  goes  up to 450. About 250 turn up. Only five families now live in Kottakkal and the burden of organizing the day long meet,  with breakfast, lunch, introductions and a cultural programme, is cheerfully borne by them. → Continue

In Unending Search of the Best!

Category : Miscellany

I was on the Executive Committee of a body that had on it very bright thinkers. The Committee used to meet on the second Monday of every month. The meetings were memorable as much for depth of discussion as for follow up failures! I remember one session to discuss and plan  a major event about five months away. Promotional material had to be prepared and a proposal from the Chairman of the sub committee  had to be approved.

Several alternatives were discussed. One was selected and the Chairman was authorised to get the job done. → Continue

About this Website

Category : Miscellany

I look upon this website as an opportunity for interaction  with my friends and well wishers. While the primary focus is on education, management education in particular, my blogs cover experiences in other fields including personal experiences right from childhood to the present day.

These blogs should facilitate interaction on management practices, management education and education management. For over a quarter century, I have been closely associated with management education and educational planning and administration. And  I believe  both will undergo fundamental changes in the coming decade.

Sam Pitroda recently remarked that the next revolution in India will be in education. In 1990, if anyone had predicted the state the Indian economy is in today, few would have considered him mentally sound. The same disbelief and doubt prevails in the education sector today.

The changes  that can occur may well produce world class colleges and universities in India. They will stand up to global competition the same way as the Indian global companies are now doing.

But all this cannot be taken for granted. We need wide  discussion not only among  educational administrators but among the general public who are the most important stake holders .I do hope that such discussion will surface on this website and several others.