A Success story of national pride and achievement, Silver Living is told most engagingly by a civil servant whose experiences in Gujarat deserve to be widely known. Jayanti Ravi is not only an observer but an active participant in this theatre of higher education where motives and methods meet several lives to enrich them amid numerous challenges and privations. True learning, argues Ravi, begins when we learn to read the world rather than the word, instances of which she cites and celebrates in these pages. Above all, non-formal education has had very few committed votaries, a regrettable shortcoming Ravi’s pages will certainly redress/overcome.
Jayanti S. Ravi, IAS, is a civil servant of the Gujarat cadre. A nuclear physicist by qualification, with a PHD from MS University, Baroda, an MPA from Harvard, she is a column writer and a visiting professor of Harvard Kennedy School, She has worked for many years as an educational administrator, including sectors raging from development to energy, across districts of Gujarat and also in the Prime Minister’s Office as Director in the National Advisory Council
Fifty years ago the administrative service was the profession of choice for the best and brightest minds of the country. It was seen as a profession that was as dignified as it was challenging. It was considered to be that profession where a person had the power to lift India's poorest, to change their destiny. While defending the constitutional guarantees to civil servants, Sardar Patel told the Constituent Assembly, "I am speaking of a sense of heavy responsibility and I must confess that in point of patriotism, in point of loyalty, in point of sincerity and in point of ability, you cannot have a substitute". Driven by the idea of national progress, the bureaucrat was oriented to the service of society. Today, sadly the bureaucrat seem to have lost its sheen. The service orientation of the civil servant is believed to be hidden through an overemphasis on statistics and political influence and bearing. No more does the bureaucracy seem driven by a sense of duty, commitment to development and growth and nationalist idealism. At such a time, this book may help restore our faith in a portion of the bureaucracy that, despite odds, continues to embody the earlier idealism that characterised it.
The book comprises vignettes from the career life of a bureaucrat credited with turning around a dormant system of higher education in Gujarat. Earlier published as a column in a popular fortnightly magazine of India, it shows us another side of administration and policy. Public administration no longer remains a set of targets achieved or outcomes gained. Instead, we are shown the human face of development. Several figures meet us here. We see, among others, educated youths returning to their villages to usher in a transformation of life, children whose demands for books to read, force a sleepy public library to order three thousand books, illiterate women ensuring that the village school is functional and well kept, persons afflicted with leprosy who struggle for the right to a dignified life. All these diverse stories give an account of the manner in which government intervention could catalyse the lives of common people. What is remarkable here is that public policy often complements and endorses people's own initiatives. Apart from the intrinsic interest of the human angle of some quite heroic lives, Dr Jayanti Ravi's narrative also holds us because she allows us to peep into the frustrations and triumphs of her own task.
I believe one can learn from anywhere. Learning is not about classrooms, blackboards, certificates or examinations. Learning can come from family, from the backyard, from the street or railway station, from traditional wisdom. Learning is not tied down to time, it is a lifelong process and it has the power to redefine you. Today, learning models are changing because of the internet and the web. Now, it basically requires time, motivation and content to learn. Fortunately, a great deal of excellent content for higher education is available in the form of Open Course Ware by prominent personalities in various fields. As a result, a teacher is not always required to create content and deliver content. However, a teacher is still required for mentoring and research. These are some of the challenges in higher education going forward. This book is an effort to outline challenges and successes. Dr Jayanti Ravi's commitment to learning shows us that we can find inspiration in the unlikeliest places, one only has to look hard enough and be open to the lessons they hold out.
I congratulate Dr Jayanti Ravi on this heart warming book. I hope that we will be able to read many more such books from her.
As a civil servant who deals with just about anything - from riots and rallies to floods or famines, from industrial policy to inclusive education and so on - I have really felt that through all the challenges, difficulties, inspiring and satisfying moments, one has certainety seen that bland, insipid moments have really been far and few. Some of the most interesting moments that I have spent with villagers, citizens, government staff, women and students have given me some amazing insights, almost seeming like moments of truth. It is during such instances of reflection, as I have answered their questions and concerns that I have realised how very rich, educative and reflective my experiences have been.
A day beginning with the local citizens in a ward jostling for water and struggling with filth and overflowing gutters, which is followed by discussions with the leading industrial honchos in some plush conference rooms making way for an interaction with bright-eyed young children from schools in the slum as the evening may be 'marred or charred' with some gruesome incident requiring rescue and relief or 'made or charged' by a celebration of a grand festivity! This is what the pages of the diary of my days at work have looked like.
This book is a collection of some of the experiences and instances that I found myself in at various points in my career. These were originally written as a column in Frontline. They are stories of women, men and matters that I encountered in my journey as a civil servant. I have often noticed that the general belief in a lot of instances is that life as an officer is dull and boring, with a great deal of pressures and struggles with the political powers and other vested interests. This is often so with many bright, young people who shy away from thinking of the civil service as a career option. In fact, this collection of my columns, originally called 'Silver Lining' were stories of ordinary yet remarkable efforts and initiatives, which had the potential of being able to transform lives. Looked at differently, some of these were my reflections and notes to myself, in the margins, as I went about my daily work and faced situations with some very inspiring people or instances. They are almost tonics that motivate me on some days when the mind seems clouded with a lot of questions about the 'whys' and 'whats' of our life and work.
The idea behind collecting these experiences in a book has been to give a glimpse into the landscape and ecosystem of experiences of a civil servant. It may also be of use to those people wanting to understand how various issues and matters operate in some sectors and parts of the great nation, India. The collection would be found interesting by those who aspire to join the civil services. It articulates the struggles, breakthroughs and life stories from the soil of India that would interest any lover of India. Of course, anyone with curiosity and interest in human stories with a very strong fragrance of the soil may find this interesting too.
Looked at from another angle, these experiences seem like a series of immersions in a spiritual journey as one walks and moves from one experience to another, engaging, attaching and un attaching oneself. over time, one is able to, perhaps, do this with consummate ease. Not to mention, those evenings that are spent in a pensive mood, followed by a sleepless night as one tosses and turns in bed, feeling agitated and sad at the deplorable situations, the complexity and magnitude of the problems of society and nation that one is almost 'copelessly' grappling with. Nevertheless, these moments too strengthen our faith and forbearance, gently nudging or even goading one towards tasting and relishing the endless reservoir of strength, at the core of each human being!
As I went about writing these columns, month on month in the early part of the millenium, I received tremendous encouragement and support from my father, Shri K. S. Srinivasan and also from husband, Shri Ravi Gopalan. They would painstakingly go through the draft, editing it, discuss various aspects with me, which was itself a very special experience that I really cherished. Similarly, the affection and the strength that I have got from my mother, Dr Rajalakshmi, and my mother-in-law Smt. Jyothi Gopalan, is something that I am very grateful for. Looking back at those days, such an effort would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of these two angels, who have added so much life and meaning to our lives, our children, Adit and Krupa. They have also been helping me with re-reading and suggesting ideas for illustrations for this compilation.
I would like to record my special gratitude to Frontline magazine with its then chief, Mr N. Ram and the entire team there. They gave me this opportunity and platform to voice my thoughts in the column titled 'Silver Lining'. The exercise of writing a column each month was quite a daunting one, especially since it brought in a regularity and systematic approach to my writing. I did not realise this but over the years was often pleasantly surprised by the number and range of people, often, in the most unexpected times, mentioning that they had read the column and shared some of their thoughts on this. While these columns were written some years ago, they have almost got a rebirth with the special efforts and hand holding of the wonderful team at Orient Black Swan, which has been very helpful and patient. Of the many sons and daughters of India, there are some living legends that have greatly inspired us and transformed the nation with their ideas and work. I feel extremely priviledged that Shri Sam Pitroda, who belongs to this category, has written the foreword to this book. I am grateful to him for his kind words and faith in the immense possibilities that the civil servants of the nation hold.
Silver Trellis was originally the term coined to describe the compilation. It has an added significance as most of these narratives are based in Gujarat. And, Ahmedabd, the main city of Gujarat is especially famous for the jali or trellis of Sidi Saiyad. This has come to be the signature of the world famous Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad (IIMA).
If there are parts of the book readers do not like, it would be, I believe a reflection of my incompetence or inability. On the other hand, if there are parts of the book that readers like, it is due to the people in the stories as also in my life who have made them nice!
I firmly believe that virtually any task and every moment is only possible due to the boundless grace and love of the Divine Mother. I pray to her to continue to hold my hand through every nook and corner in every moment of this life.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend