Dear Ms. Irani,
I have a few good reasons to write you an open letter. One, I’ve never done it before and there’s always a first time for everything. Two, it’s the season of open letters. The PM must have received more open letters in the last few days than he has ever received sealed letters. Three, there’s a point missing in this qualification debate.
I am sure, by now you must have seen the national debate (and argument and bickering) about your suitability for the post of the Minister for HRD, and effectively for Education. If you haven’t followed the debate, I highly recommend you ignore it. I doubt if the messages affect you much; they should not at all. Neither the critics nor (most of) your supporters are doing a good job. Those against are talking purely in terms of a formal qualification, and those in favour are mostly enumerating previous people in high positions with no or low qualifications. And it is a happy coincidence that while this debate was raging on social and mainstream media, I was reading a book by Sri Aurobindo – The National Value of Art. Early in the book, he says:
The majority of mankind do not think, they have only thought-sensations; a large minority think confusedly, mixing up desires, predilections, passions, prejudgments, old associations and prejudices with pure and disinterested thought. Only a few, the rare aristocrats of the earth, can really and truly think.
And I call your attention to the next part of the paragraph:
That is now the true aristocracy, not the aristocracy of the body and birth, not the aristocracy of vital superiority, wealth, pride and luxury, not the aristocracy of higher emotions, courage, energy, successful political instinct and the habit of mastery and rule, – though these latter cannot be neglected, – but the aristocracy of knowledge, undisturbed insight and intellectual ability.
For me, that will be your true test. Not the value, quality, or the content of your formal qualification. If the manner, in which the PM has presented himself and his team is anything to go by, this aristocracy will have to be amply demonstrated. Neither knowledge, insight, or ability are subordinate to a formal education and, therefore all arguments based on the lack your formal qualification fall short of making their mark. And while it is inherent to the nature of open letters, and I am tempted to list the top ten things that you should do during your tenure, I’ll refrain from doing so. You will have many qualified people around you who can tell you that. It is for you to judiciously ascertain what is priority and what is not.
What was should matter less than what should be. Again, in the words of Sri Aurobindo, in the same book:
Mankind is apt to bind itself by attachment to the means of its past progress forgetful of the aim.
Finally, your vision, if you stay true to it, should be a shining light towards executing your duty.
I wish you all the best.