My last few days in London were spent seeped in academia. I was at the London School of Economics discussing my impending doctoral thesis: sadly neither am I rich enough nor that unethical to prefix my name with honorary doctorates so I will have to do it the old-fashioned way: earn my degree as it were.
There is something remarkable about going back to a campus and that too as hallowed at the London School of Economics. What should certainly interest most Indians is the fact that the LSE is putting together a South Asia Centre at the LSE which will be headed by the brilliantly talented Professor Mukulika Banerjee: while the Centre will cover all of Asia, there will, of course, be a specific skew towards India. Which brings me to the critical point. Narendra Modi needs to undo what years of the Congress have done. The Congress would have the world believe that the story of India begins and ends with Jawaharlal Nehru, which is far from accurate history. The Government and the billionaires that India produces so ever often need to donate towards setting up of this Centre for two reasons: the history of India and its contribution to the world does not begin and end with Nehruvian thought and more importantly, we have begun the deep neglect of all the soft power we have and continue to offer to the world. It is another matter that our soft power is only qua Bollywood but we need to rise from this cultural myopia and instead engender a better discourse.
LSE continues to maintain its traditions of academic excellence, which is what many of our Indian institutions need to emulate. We have, in our rush to produce engineers and doctors, completely decimated the liberal arts edifice that is so needed to build a just and equitable society. London continued to welcome hordes of our fellow countrymen but thankfully none of the serving ministers which means this is a Government that is working. I was delighted to read that Narendra Modi's office also cancelled Shripad Naik's proposed tour to China to attract tourists from there. We first need to build a robust infrastructure in this country before we can dream of spending the taxpayer's money on these stupid junkets.
The flight back on Jet was charming as always. I have forever maintained that Jet Airways runs the best service between Delhi and London and it is a measure of their professionalism that you always feel home. Talking about home, upon arrival in Delhi, I was amused to see a fellow passenger being received by a posse of policemen and customs officials. I guess Modi will still need some time before he dismantles these vestiges of mistaken importance. As an aside, there was a separate VIP receiving party to welcome the Chief Justice of India on a British Airways flight. Clearly the Chief Justice hasn't experienced Jet yet but his patronage of a national carrier would do wonders to our confidence. And of course to the revenues of Jet notwithstanding taxpayer's money being funelled in Indian currency.