About Me

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I am a professional Indian Classical Singer. I hold a Ph.D. in Economics and Master's Degrees in both, Economics and Business Management; and I also work as Faculty in Economics for Management students. I have a passion for writing and this blog is a platform for me to share my experiences and express my thoughts and ideas, views and opinions, gathered while working in diverse fields.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Ten years completed!

It was July 2004 when with my newly acquired Masters Degree in Economics, I delivered my first lecture in International Economics at the famous Fergusson College, my alma mater! The switching of gears from being a student in the same college to being associated as faculty happened quite seamlessly. My professors knew I was good at academics as my performance had been consistently good; I had been a rank-holder all through and most importantly, that same year at the first attempt (which was quite rare!) I had cleared the Maharashtra State Eligibility Test (SET) which is mandatory for holding faculty positions at the graduate, post-graduate, and University levels. I was one of the mere 2.13 % of candidates appeared that year (which included candidates from various disciplines, not just Economics!) who passed that exam.

The beginning thus, was good and my professors had absolutely no reservations in giving me a much coveted assignment to teach graduate and post-graduate level students in place of a temporary vacancy created due to one of the senior professors going on a sabbatical. They did not seem to mind the fact that my only teaching experience was of some 30 odd days in an assignment I had done while still a student! They firmly believed that I knew my subject well, and that the art of teaching that subject, I will learn slowly by trial and error! I eternally remain thankful to them for the confidence they showed in me. On my side, it was not an ad hoc or interim arrangement till I got another job or as it is said, deferring of unemployment! On the contrary, it was a serious choice I had made that academics was to be my career, and I would do it as seriously as any other vocation I would have taken up. Unlike a lot of people who take up teaching assignments just for the heck of it, mine was a decision firmly taken after giving due thought.

However, for me it was quite difficult to get into the faculty mode suddenly! Simple things such as going and sitting in the Professors' Common Room in that stately British era building, when I did not have classes to conduct, was intimidating! Addressing students almost as old as me was equally daunting! However, having performed on stage since the age of 6, first as a dancer and then as a singer, stage fright was almost non-existent. Yet, this was a different ball game altogether and the feelings of whether I would be able to make them understand, or whether I would be able to solve all their queries, were very much present. Add to it that the field of Economics is extremely dynamic. A new policy or proposal, a new subsidy, a new law, or even a new public statement made by the RBI Governor or the Finance Minister has implications on the knowledge and information you impart and hence along with theoretical knowledge you have to be abreast of the happenings in the economic environment around you every single day.

Gradually, the apprehensions, the fear, all vanished and I started enjoying my job at Fergusson College. The small age difference between me and my students became a strength rather than a weakness and they started seeing in me a friend rather than a traditional strict and matter-of-fact professor. I started handling other branches of Economics like Public Finance, Monetary Economics, Economics of Development, Labour and Industrial Economics, and the quintessential Indian Economy which is part of most syllabi of Economics in India. I got an opportunity to teach Research Methodology, while I was myself doing my doctoral research in Economics at the University of Pune, which opened new insights and perspectives to the study of Economics. At the same time, I had to guide masters level students for their dissertations which made me think beyond my areas of comfort and study different aspects of this fascinating subject called Economics.

When my three years at Fergusson got over, I felt as if I was leaving my home! But a fresh new beginning was awaiting me as Faculty at the Institute of Management Development and Research. It was here that I forayed into other related areas, Economics being one of the vital pillars of Business Management. I got further involved in studying Research Methodology, a more specialised version of it in terms of Business Research Methods and Qualitative Research. Working in a B-school, I felt in addition to my core discipline, I should have some knowledge of Management subjects as well. This culminated in my enrolling for the two-year Masters in Personnel Management programme, a specialised programme in Human Resource Management of the University of Pune and completing it with Distinction. Additionally, I got to handle a lot of complex issues and anchor crucial institutional processes which helped me hone my managerial skills. It is a myth that people in academics only study, teach and lecture. An educational institution is as much an 'organisation' as any other business organisation and requires similar managerial skills.

It is July 2014 now, and 10 fulfilling years of professional academics have gone by, which were full of learning, growth, experience, self-discovery, and pushing my own limits to venture into new areas.  The same continues! 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

My Presentation in Istanbul on The Sustainability Paradox of Gender Equality in Higher Education in India

It was sometime in September-October last year that I got to know about the International Federation for University Women (FUW) inter-disciplinary seminar topics for the 31st Triennial Conference which was to be held in Istanbul in August 2013. Working in the field of Higher Education, more specifically in Economics and Business Management, the ID seminar on ‘Gender Inequality in Higher Education: A Threat to Sustainable Societies’ caught my attention.  I felt it was a nice area to work on and it got me thinking about the status of gender inequality in higher education in my own country, India. Contrary to public opinion, as an individual and as a woman working in this sector; and in the city of Pune (which is a seat of Education and Culture in the country, and is often referred to as the Oxford of the East); I hardly ever saw gross gender inequality in the educational system. The educational system I feel is quite egalitarian in terms of opportunities offered in education and further in employment in the education sector. I always felt it was the social system which was more to blame, it is the family, their role expectations about women, particularly married women, and that was where the gender inequality issue stemmed from. So it was worthwhile to explore the problems of gender inequality in higher education in India in a systematic and scientific manner.

As a result, I studied this question more in detail, by referring to a lot of secondary data on this subject, quantitative as well as qualitative, referring to research work already done in the area of gender inequalities and also the systemic realities in terms of rules and regulations made by the Government and other regulatory bodies. This opened in front of me, new dimensions of the problem and I then started looking at it as an Economist too! I realized that wherever there were problems of capacity, quality or accessibility in Higher Education institutes, the onus was knowingly or unknowingly shifted on the Government to provide for everybody, particularly in a welfare state like India. The Government in turn has to combat several macro-economic issues like inflation, growing fiscal deficit and a high subsidy bill. Moreover, even if it were possible for the Government to provide everyone with everything, would it actually help in increasing female participation in higher education or in reducing their drop-out rate? The answer to this is not a complete yes, because the problem, as stated earlier is neither completely systemic nor economic; it is socio-cultural and socio-economic.

There is a social and attitudinal change which is required, something which is far difficult to achieve than merely subsidizing education or increasing the number of seats. Two main conclusions, or rather recommendations which emerged out of my research paper were that sensitization of gender issues should start at the school level, as the same school child becomes the adult of tomorrow, and becomes a part of the higher education system. This will work on two levels, of sensitizing the child and also the parents indirectly, thus making a humble beginning towards changing the social fabric and bridging the gender gap. Secondly, it is very important to link education to employability, so that it leads to economic independence of women, so that they are empowered to make their own choices and decisions. It also makes their families and the society at large respect and understand the importance of education in their lives.

My seminar at the IFUW conference in Istanbul was scheduled on 19th August, and I was the first presenter of the day. My paper was extremely well-received as the members in the audience, belonging to various countries, were all interested in India, the emerging economy. It was also interesting to point out to them that in the context of employability during the global recession and recovery, India still fared better than most ‘developed’ economies! At the same time, it was also interesting to discuss the problems of social dualism and regional imbalance prevalent in India which were greater causes of worry than the depreciating Rupee!

The amount of discussion in the audience which my paper stimulated was by itself an indicator of its accomplishment and left me satisfied with the entire exercise which had lasted almost a year! It was also nice to interact in person with my convener and the other presenters, with whom I had been in touch via email; also for a year! It was a good idea on the part of the organizers to have a pre-seminar meeting of all the conveners and paper presenters, so that we got to know each other well before our actual seminar.  It was also extremely interesting to listen to the other presentations in my seminar which acquainted me with the condition of fellow-women in other countries in the context of higher education. It was the perfect platform for sharing of ideas, experiences and future goals. At the last IFUW triennial conference in Mexico, my paper was read out in absentia as I could not attend it due to other pre-determined assignments. Having missed that chance of interacting with IFUW members from all over the world, I felt this one at Istanbul was all the more special to me!