Temples of Modernity: Dream Big for ‘New India’


This three-day “Labour Day” weekend in the US gave me the opportunity to briefly visit some of the “Temples” of education on my way to Boston-Harvard, Yale, and MIT; the added incentive of the tour I paid for the overwhelming presence of Chinese ‘tiger’ moms and dads for company! So here we have it – the US, India and China engaged in a gentle dance of power in the 21st century – two democracies versus a one-party state on steroids. Boston’s rich anti-colonial traditions combined with a post-pandemic ‘opening up’ gave these discussions a rich texture of their own in my mind.

1. First impressions; Yale in New Haven is on the way from New York to Boston. It boasts of some super-achieving alumni such as former Pepsi Co. CEO Indira Nooyi, Secretary Hilary Clinton and a wealthy, overflowing corpus of more than US$43 billion. For the movie trivia fans, the dorm and campus scenes in Harry Potter, the film was shot here and has one of the best drama schools in the US through the David Geffen School of Dramatic Arts.

While wandering ‘Google’ through the green campus, we noticed how easily modernity and traditions coexist in this environment. And don’t forget that the university is named after a former British colonial administrator – a stark reminder of our own trials and tribulations of Imperial rule.

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2. Harvard University, with a super-spread campus of 15 colleges and departments spread across Boston, was a biblical “city on the hill” in its own right. The city is called Cambridge in recognition of the founding fathers across the Atlantic. Besides, the religious and theosophical underpinnings of the Ivy League biggies Harvard and Yale are hard to miss and remain very ‘in your face’.

The private sector investment and philanthropy that made Harvard the brand name and juggernaut that attracts the best from around the world was evident on the 2,000-plus acres of beautiful campus and prime real estate that the university prides itself on. . This year there were more than 61 thousand applications and only a fraction of that number were accepted, for a wide range of courses and degrees.

The honor of holding the fainting graduation remarks, uttered in the past by celebrities such as the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, was given this time by New Zealand Prime Minister, Ms Jacquinda Ardem.

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3. Towards the groundbreaking MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which, despite being centuries younger than Harvard and Yale, is considered by many to be the hardest science and technology university to get into in the United States. The highlights remain the same: the scale, the investment and the open door policy to ensure that the best minds from around the world take this journey to these haloed portals.

4. So as we rush into the buzzing existence of our daily lives in the Big Apple, the enduring image that remains in our minds is one of the young minds with dreams in their eyes and how we, as the youngest land on overtaking the planet and now the fifth largest economy in the world after the United Kingdom, must reaffirm our determination to ensure that our young people receive the best possible education at the best possible cost-price ratio.

WE, the PEOPLE, cannot afford to rest on our laurels and must work hard to ensure that the NEW EDUCATION POLICY 2020 – A Roadmap for India 2.0 is implemented in letter and spirit. This really is the best possible gift to [email protected]! We just can’t afford to miss this bus.

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5. Here at the UN, where I have the proud privilege and honor of working on our mission, we are getting ready to participate in the Transforming Education Summit (September 17-19); which, in the words of the UN, “provides a unique opportunity to put education at the top of the global political agenda”. Again, India is uniquely positioned in this regard as we gear up to attract and retain the best spirits of General Next back home.

Pratik Mathur on the Harvard College campus. (Practice Mathur)

6. Farewell Photo- So if a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with the competition next to it on the sprawling Harvard College campus (in the background is the image of a turtle donated to the university by the University three hundred years ago) Overseas Chinese Students Association) – let’s see who has the last laugh.



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