It was raining heavily when I lef home today, at dawn, for the railway station. I was excited about the five hour (and close to 300 km)journey to Kochi from my hometown of Trivandrum. 20 years ago,I was a regular on these trains,riding these tracks for school, for work, and sometimes just to see the sun rise over gorgeous lakes.One added benefit was the amazing food servers would walk around with, calling out the names of delicious dishes (the bread omelet was my favourite!).
A lot has changed – the food, the trains, and me. I am no longer that student activist who wanted to turn the world upside down, but a pragmatic counsellor on a talking circuit invited by some of the top schools in the country to present my ideas on preparing for university.The world has also changed around me, every day seems to bring a new disaster – from hurri-
canes and earthquakes to the threat of nuclear war, the globe is now in a permanent mode of crisis.
While I was reading the news aboard the train on the latest Donald Trump gaffe (he called KimJong-Un a Rocket Man?!), my eyes glanced over the passionate speech that Pope Francis recently gave, where he stated that God was “not a magician with a magic wand” and defended science against creationism and theories of intelligent design. It reminded me suddenly of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who has always fascinated me, initially for his for his far-flung travels. It is suggested he went as far as TamilNadu and Kerala; there is evidence that by 52 AD, he had baptized several people and began a sect there (the Mar ThomaNazranis). He was also known colloquially as‘doubting Thomas’, because he initially doubted the idea of Christ’s resurrection.Despite my agnostic beliefs, I am of a mind with Saint Thomas and Pope Francis: having doubt is important. Being curious is the key to being a lifelong student, but it takes a great deal of courage to refuse absolutes; it’s a quality I would like all of my students to have. Perhaps I will add that to my next lecture, alongside my talk on the jobs of the future and the skills required to succeed in tomorrow’s world. I plan on referring to the World Economic Forum Report on the same – the report refers to socioeconomic and demographic factors that might create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labour markets. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others. The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work. I aim to unpack and provide specific information on the relative magnitude of these trends to groups of highschool millennials already livin in the ‘Uber-ized’ world; this is a
challenge, as you can imagine! To be honest, I have been in Asia a little too long this time. It’s been almost 50 days since I left NorthAmerica, and in that time I’ve met with 100s of students, teachers,educators and policy makers, gave lectures and lead seminars, en-
gaged in small group discussions in universities, colleges and local schools. I also wrote and published a few articles on Indian mainstream media and followed the dynamic conversations among my readers. It has not been all work however, as those 50 days include a large family event and an intense reunion with 23 of close high school and old cricket club friends. All in all, it has been an exciting few weeks, but I am ready to be back in Boston and Iowa, and back to my fellowship work at the teachers institute in the Canadian Parliament. Still, I must admit, I will miss mytime here. While a lot has changed,the rains, the trains, the lakes, therivers and the sunrise remain as spectacular as they were 20 years