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Vidyaranya 50 years

    “Believe nothing…
    …merely because you have been told it
    Or because it is traditional,
    Or because you have imagined it.
    Do not believe what your teacher tells you
    Merely out of respect for the teacher.
    But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis,
    You find to be conducive to the good,
    The benefit, the welfare of all beings
    That doctrine believe and cling to,
    And take it as your guide.”

    – The Buddha

Vidyaranya, a way of life that cherishes freedom, questions, diversity and friendship.
(As taken from the Vidyaranya 50 years publication)

What I learned at Vidyaranya | “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

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“It is unsafe and risky to have foreigners and bachelors living in our housing society….” – this, coming from “New” Mumbai. And we proclaim that India is a leading player in globalization, poised for super-powerdom! I agree, of course India is pioneering globalization, I’m a product of that trend. However, this is limited to just one of our country’s many faces. There are 2 India’s that exist, one that’s shutting itself in with borders and another that’s flying borderless.

I have never felt as angry about the attitude and beliefs that come from some parts of my country as I did a few days ago. I think that’s also because I didn’t really care much earlier. So here is the cause of my frustration – I have lived in a decent colony in New Mumbai for the last 3 months. Last weekend I finally got a Korean flat-mate. A few days later, I hear that my housing society has passed a resolution that they do not want bachelors or foreigners to live in their apartments anymore! The reason – it’s dangerous, risky and unsafe.

My thoughts:

Is this the Mumbai I think it is? Have I been living and believing in a society that doesn’t really exist? Or is this a reflection of the beautiful contradiction that is my country? Mumbai symbolizes to me, as it does to many other young people, hope, success and freedom. If there is one city in India which is liberal in its thoughts and actions, it is Mumbai. 3 years living in the city of dreams, and I hadn’t seen the shadows lurking beneath. Shadows of conservative beliefs, mistrust and selfishness.

“Atithi devo bhava”, a famous Indian saying – guests in our home and country are a form of God. Well, really? If in a city like Mumbai, we proclaim that it’s “dangerous” to have a 21 year old Korean girl living in an apartment and we decide to ask her to vacate, are we welcoming her to our country? “Foreigners” – in these times of globalization, I do not understand how people can use that as a dirty word! Families spend hours watching idiotic shows on the idiot box, and this is one of the results.

One of the best things about India is its “community living”. I missed it in the Netherlands! However, there is a limit to how much one can interfere and take decisions in another person’s life – a person who is not related, is not a friend, who just happens to live in the same apartment complex. What time I come home, whether I sleep at 10:00pm or 4:00am, which friends visit me or stay with me, is really no one else’s business as long as it is not harming or causing a problem to other residents.

And what of contracts and agreements? We signed an 11 month contract on the apartment. Completely disregarding this contract, the housing society is considering giving us a notice to vacate. Forget about the legal system and implications, but do we not respect an understanding or promise between human beings?

This small story echoes many other realities of our country – Gaps in our education system, equal opportunities for all, general awareness of our people, moral policing Vs personal freedom. Most of all it tells the story of the 2 India’s, and sadly one is leaving the other behind in a cloud of dust. It’s these nuances of life in Mumbai and in India, that make it a challenge and no matter what I love this city and my country. I will fight to bridge the gap between the 2 India’s and make this a better home for my people and the world.

It’s 11pm. I’m traveling alone by rickshaw back to my Mumbai apartment following dinner in a back-water restaurant with friends. The auto driver asks me if I’m enjoying India, I say; “very much”. He asks where I am from, I say; “Australia”. There is a pause … “It’s very bad what’s happening to the students there”.

Thus begins the next round of a conversation I’ve been drawn into many times – by rickshaw drivers, friends, students, colleagues …
They are referring to the racially-fuelled attacks on Indian students that occurred in Sydney and Melbourne and head-lined Indian media earlier this year. Before these attacks, I would instead expect to spar in a conversation on the recent prowess of either Australia’s or India’s cricket team.

It would appear potential conversation starters are extremely limited.

Over the last few decades, Australia’s sights have been firmly set on the gains of a strong relationship with countries in East Asia such as China, Japan and Indonesia. So it’s no small wonder that India and Australia have so little common ground. Maybe it’s time to broaden our reach and consider the wealth of advantages available from forging stronger ties with India. And in the process, improve our positioning amongst the wider Indian population.

My opinion is not that we should simply address Australia’s image in India (although we should), it is that there are very strong grounds for a relationship between our two countries.

Australia’s approach needs to be multi-pronged; spanning economics, migration and tourism. To start with, data on our countries reveals some useful insights;

Australia’s exports to India have risen at an annual average of more than 30% for the last 3 years and India is our 4th largest export market for goods and services (DIISR).
India is the world’s 5th largest consumer of energy and consumption is rising at one of the fastest rates in the world (CFR). A point of interest considering our supply to the energy commodities market.
40% of Indian’s population is under the age of 15 (World Bank). This represents a huge human talent market when we face challenges of skill supply in many core industries.
63,731 Indian students commenced studies in Australia in 2009 (to October-end). That’s 19% of overall commencements, second only to China (AEI).
India is one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets and has grown despite a downturn globally (UNWTO).

Data alone, it looks like there is potential for mutual benefit in forging better cooperation between India and Australia. But there is also something that cannot easily be quantified, but is infinitely important. We should be outraged – OUTRAGED – for our country to have a racist image in any part of the world. It is imperative for Australia to address this, but not this alone.

To be serious about impactful engagement with India, our strategies need to be connected to our foreign policy generally, our involvement with Asia specifically, and connected to domestic initiatives.

Cooperating further with India should be part of an overall strategy of engaging with Asia, in fact, it should be part of an overall long-term foreign policy plan. This should be a bi-partisan plan that defines the growth of Australia’s cooperative partnerships strategically and outlines a conscious connection to forums we participate in and hold over the next 20-30years.

We need to work on regional institutions being comprehensive in their scope and membership. After many years of talking about a power-change from “West to East”, it would seem emerging and influential economic powerhouses in Asia are bringing the pendulum shift. This means a change in dynamic of global discussions is probably not far behind and, in the words of Paul Keating, “we will be looking at some concert of powers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans”. Australia should ensure that the voices of the countries in our region echo with the needs of the region, including our own, through a common comprehensive platform to outline those priorities.

To further access the growing tourist and student market, Australia should have a campaign specifically designed to attract visitors from India. This should be combined with an effort to attract longer-term visits from skilled employees. However, this initial effort needs to be more pro-active. Only 11% of India’s working-age population is educated at a tertiary level (World Bank India). To truly access benefits of the Indian labour market, we should be active contributors to the education of young people in India, invest in attracting these students to study in Australia, and therefore ensure our universities are of an internationally competitive quality.

We need to educate our country, and specifically our young people, on what it means to be truly multi-cultural. This is an excellent opportunity as we develop a national curriculum; how is Australia practically preparing our young people, through our educational institutions, for not just an increasingly multi-cultural country, but an increasingly culturally and linguistically dynamic world?

Australia’s partnerships in East Asia are a good example of how policy and action can lead to new partnerships the rest of the world is yet to consider. It is with this spirit, and in light of the potential, that Australia needs to act on building further ties with India.

To do this, we need to remake our image first. I will not forget the conversation I recounted earlier; being confronted with an image of racism in Australia I did not recognise. India will not forget the stories of their students; being confronted with racism they did not expect. And neither should we. We should not stand for it. We should nurture and promote the multi-cultural Australia we really are.

This is Australia’s time to build a powerful partnership with, and positive image within, India.

We should seek out partnership with current and future global leaders. We should not be observers, we should be architectures of tomorrow. To be on the sidelines is to stagnate, to lead is to be part of the future. Where do we want to belong?

You can read it at the address below, it’s called “Australia’s Positioning in the Asian Hemisphere with a Focus on India”.

Message from Kate – If you register (sign up with your name and email address here: http://www.youngwriters.org.au/youngwriters/register.asp) you can vote and/or comment on the submission. If you like what you read, it would be great if you could give my submission a high rating!

Today I realized that I miss being a geek 🙂 For some reason this made me Reflect on why I found my previous job so exciting and Predict why I could come to find my current job quite exciting too.

It was one of those mornings. I woke up with a slight headache and not enough sleep. If only I could crawl back under the covers for 5 minutes, or maybe 150! Trying to convince myself that a cold shower is always the perfect remedy for this sort of stuff, I struggled out of bed. Gulping down my breakfast (of spicy poha and pulpy orange, in case your interested) I took a shot at trying to bargain my way to a spot in the November 2041 Antartica Expedition. Finally stepping out of home, I realized that I had forgotten my lunch, rushed back to get it, and of course arrived at the office 20 minutes late. And sleepy.

I had almost made up my mind that it was going to be a torturous day. The kind when you slouch at your desk with half closed eyes imagining a cozy bed and blanket. But it was not to be! Google Analytics, Excel and the geek in me saved the day. Playing with data is the most fun thing in the world. Setting a goal, figuring out what kind of data to look at, crunching numbers on Excel and analyzing trends – Rise and shine! This was one of the things I loved about my job on AIESEC International and luckily for me, it seems like I’ll have to do some of it in my new role as well.

Reflections – what made my year on AIESEC International fantastic?
1. The people – Working with young bright people from across different countries taught me something new everyday, about people, the world, and my work.
2. Traveling – Every few weeks I got the chance to set out on a new adventure, discovering people, cultures and places around the world.
3. Independence and interdependence – My targets on the team were such that to achieve them I had to strike a fine balance between individual delivery and team work.
4. Achievement – My team saw opportunity for growth, defined the path and then facilitated and watched the organization achieve.
5. My role – I loved my role which included process enhancement, coaching, product development, communication and marketing, statistical analysis and trends forecasting.

Predictions – what could make my time at Cactus Communications fantastic?
1. A new world – I like the feel of entering a whole new market after 6 years of working with AIESEC. Everything is new and interesting, I learn so much everyday.
2. Opportunity for growth – Cactus is a medium sized fast growing organization. The market I’m handling is largely unexplored and has potential for tremendous growth. I can feel the momentum building up to something powerful.
3. The challenge – Limited time to create a niche for Editage in the European and American markets with high targets. The challenge of figuring my way in a new place while ensuring I’m contributing and even achieving pushes me to think and work hard.
4. The people – Cactus is founded by an AIESEC alumnus, employs AIESEC alumni and internationals from across Asia Pacific. I enjoy the multicultural work environment this creates.
5. Mumbai – I work in Mumbai which is my favorite city in the whole world! After spending a year abroad, I’m so excited to be able to rediscover the Maximum City.

LOGOYOUTHGLOBALY2B_Forum_Quick_Facts

The Global Youth to Business Forum is a unique meeting point for youth leaders from around the world and leading organizations.

More than 600 youth leaders and selected organizations will meet, share perspectives and propose possible actions around issues of global relevance. The forum will gather youth opinion around the topics of Climate change and Sustainability; Entrepreneurship in the Crisis; Mobility and Diversity.

The output of the discussions around each of those three topics will be later on presented to relevant world institutions and large businesses.

Mobility_Sustrainability_EntrepreneurshipIf your organization is working around one of the discussed topics or youth opinion in general, join the youth leaders from around the world in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 25th August 2009 as a corporate delegate. Click HERE

If your organization is interested to:

* Gather global youth opinion regarding the core business/important initiative of your company
* Involve your staff in direct interaction with youth leadership from diverse cultures
* Profile your brand among 600 youth leaders from over 100 countries and thousands more online
* Co-brand a youth statement to the world institutions and business regarding the burning topics of today

Visit our Partner page , and learn more.

To get to know about the program of the event: click HERE

For further information on the events venue and host country: click HERE.

      Global_Youth_to_Business_Forum_Button

I joined AIESEC because I wanted an international exchange experience – Vishal Jodhani, India/Belgium
I joined AIESEC to be able to explore the world beyond Colombia – Alejandra Laiton, Colombia
I joined AIESEC because I wanted to invest my time into something that makes a difference – Monica Costea, Romania
I joined AIESEC because the best people in my city were part of it – Aditi Bhat, India

A few years ago, these were stories waiting to happen. AIESEC made these stories come alive. Today Vishal, Alejandra, Monica and Aditi are part of AIESEC’s global office working with young people around the world to ensure that they also have A POWERFUL STORY to share tomorrow!

Are you a young person asking these questions?

      How can I make a difference in my community?
      How can I build a network of friends and colleagues around the world?
      How can I develop myself personally and professionally?
      How can I gain international work and leadership experience?

JOIN US! Starting July AIESEC around the world is recruiting new members! Do you want to write your story in this world? AIESEC can offer you international exchange and leadership opportunities which give you a platform to create impact in your society, create a network of friends, mentors and organizations around the world, develop your personal and professional skills, and work in another country!

As a young person who joins AIESEC today, you will be part of AIESEC’s 2010 generation! You will take the final step in leading the organization to achieve its 2010 vision. The result of more than 10 generations of hard work, passion and ambition!

AIESEC’s 2010 vision:
“Every day, AIESEC is enabling the development of agents of positive change who create the needed impact in society. Our rapidly growing network connects high potential people around the world to generate an increasing volume of AIESEC Experiences. Every member in our thriving local and global communities of learning completes a life-changing AIESEC Experience. Our contribution makes us the first choice amongst young people and organizations for activating leadership.”

Who is Generation 2010? Young people who have –
The perseverance to make things happen
The creativity and originality to think differently
The ambition to lead change

If you want to join AIESEC go to http://www.aiesec.org and contact the AIESEC office in your city!

A young AIESECer in Iran writes a mail of reassurance to Annika, Director for AIESEC in the Middle East and North Africa:

“Well I cannot say that everything is fine…From Saturday there have been huge fights between the Government and all the people who know that there have been a big cheat in the elections. Everyday you can here the news from here and there about the number of people (normal to important ones) who have been arrested. The police have been controlling it all. Like most streets are guarded with thousands of polices. (that they even do not look like Iranian, I am not sure from which country they have imported them! 😉 )

But be sure we are still safe and also the AIESEC interns, we have tried to take care of them more than usual, some of them accommodated in our own houses!

People are so much angry with the election results, and also so many other leaders and the other candidates have started some movement, although they have house arrested them all! Today gonna be a big strike on the streets all over the country and from last night people have started to shout “Allah Akbar” on the roofs. Not sure for how long ths will continue. But as the current government is having all the power by blocking the SMS system, cellphones and so many website and more over so slow internet connection that you can not even check your mail or upload any file, as they do not wanna any news go out of the country, they have closed most communication channels. I am not sure about what have been communicated on news worldwide as the satellite and all the news channels is blocked! 😀

But still there is not so much to worry about or any threat for AIESEC, and I do not hink it takes so much long time.

Thanks for taking care.”

“In 1996 I went to Iran for Guardian Weekend. A doctoral student at the University of Tehran who was working with the team that was bringing the internet to Iran, told me that the internet would be the undoing of the regime,” – Linda Grant, novelist.

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          The Wall Street Journal – With Twitter’s help, the youth of Iran take on the ayatollahs
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