APPLYING TO A FOREIGN UNIVERSITY- III

Let us now talk about how to write emails in a professional manner.
Develop Email Etiquette
You should remember that the professors you are going to contact are often very busy. They receive a lot of emails every day. So, if you want your email to be read and replied, you should write it neatly and without unnecessary details.
I would recommend the following structure: salutation, body, closing and signature.
Salutation: Address the recipient (your targeted professor) politely. As I told you last time, do not use the honorific ‘Sir’. Instead, you can start like this: Dear Professor Cooper or Dear Dr Cooper. Write correct spellings. Do not write in all small letters or all capital letters.
Body: It is the main part of your email.  You can start this section by introducing yourself, mentioning your educational background and work experience. You can divide the body section into two or three paragraphs. Write only about relevant things. Remove clutter. Use formal and direct speech
Closing: Closing part should give good impression. So use proper words and phrases. For example, I am looking forward to your reply. After this, leave two lines and write a cordial phrase like Sincerely, Faithfully, Regards etc.
Signature: It would be better to write your full name and institutional affiliation.
For better understanding on how to draft an email, here is an (made-up) illustration:

Dear Dr Cooper,
My name is Aijaz Ahmad and I am in the last year of my M.A political science at University of Kashmir. In my master’s thesis I am looking at post-1996 electoral politics in India-controlled Kashmir and its effects on Kashmiri resistance movement. This topic is of particular interest to me because…. (You can give your own reasons)
Your comparative study on South Asian conflicts published in Contemporary South Asia (2012) made me look at the Kashmir conflict from a new perspective… (You can point at the professor’s particular publication relevant to your proposed research project)
My research seeks to examine why certain resistance movements change their nature over time while certain others remain the same…
I wish to work under your supervision as your research field is related with my topic.
I am looking forward to your reply
Sincerely,
Aijaz Ahmad
M.A Political Science (expected March 2015)
Department of Political Science,
University of Kashmir, Srinagar (190001)

If you cannot communicate well through your email, it certainly gives a bad impression.  Secondly, it shows your weak command over English language and may make professor question your ability to read complex academic readings and write your thesis.  So always draft your email properly, reading it several times to check mistakes or wrong spellings and making it concise and formal.
Sources of Financial Support
Now let us turn to funding for your studies. Studying abroad is not cheap. There are one year masters programs and also two years ones. On average a two year master’s program would cost you around 23,200 pounds (over 22 lakh rupees). That is ridiculously costly education. Germany may be a good option, considering it waived tuition fees for students (including foreign students). But still you need around 800 Euros (roughly 62000 rupees) a month for living expenses. Again, this is not reasonable for an average income Kashmiri.
There are usually two types of funding. One is university scholarships and another is external grants. When you apply to universities, they usually have a link on their websites to funding sources. For example, University of Edinburgh has 30 Edinburgh Global Masters Scholarship for foreign students. It also has country specific scholarships like Principles Indian Masters Scholarship for 12 Indian students annually. These scholarships are competitive. So, you have to diversify your options and look for other sources. The following are the best sources I could get for you:

DAAD (The German Academic Exchange Service):
DAAD provides number of scholarships at undergraduate, masters and post-graduate level. In recent years DAAD is quite active in South Asia, providing region specific scholarships. Before you apply to DAAD, I would suggest that you contact a professor of your target university in Germany like University of Bremen, Humboldt University Berlin, and Free University Berlin etc. These universities have social sciences programmes in English language at masters and PhD levels. You can visit this site to search for your preferred program:https://www.daad.de/deutschland/studienangebote/international-programs/en/.
Once you contact a professor and your topic was found of interest, you can then go further. Save the professor’s email reply on your computer or flash drive. You will need it during scholarship application to DAAD. You can visit DAAD’s Indian chapter here: http://www.daaddelhi.org/en/.
MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) or Monbukagakusho
Japanese government, companies and universities offer generous scholarships. I received my scholarship for master’s program from Konosuke Matsushita Memorial Foundation (KMMF), run by electronic company Panasonic. Unfortunately, after 2012 KMMF scholarship programme was closed down. But no worries, we still have MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) or Monbukagakusho which is arguably one of the largest and best scholarships-granting agencies in the world.
MEXT scholarships are conducted via Japanese embassies in different countries or through universities in Japan. Luckily, there is no application fee to be paid, so there is no harm in trying; travelling to New Delhi incurs costs, though.  There are 8 types of scholarships on offer from MEXT, four each for undergraduate and post-graduates levels. Application submission deadlines may vary, but it is usually February or March. For more information you can visit this website:
http://www.in.emb-japan.go.jp/Education/japanese_government_scholarships.html
Chevening Scholarships
Government of United Kingdom has prestigious Chevening Scholarships to offer for international students. Although deadline for application to some fellowships is over, but you can still apply to a university in UK and then defer your admission and apply for scholarship next year, in case you didn’t get it somewhere else before that. But remember Chevening Scholarships are very competitive. You need to prepare your application well ahead of time and with meticulous detail for perfection. There are some fellowships open for application:
http://www.chevening.org/india/

Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC)
China’s CSC provides financial assistance to international students wishing to study in China. You should first do an extensive search to find a program of study in English language in a Chinese university. After that you can apply for a CSC scholarship, which are on offer for different levels of study, mostly for courses like business management, international trade, finance, engineering and technology. Visit this site for exploring the scholarships on offer:
http://en.csc.edu.cn/Laihua/

_________________________________________________________________________________________________First published in the Greater Kashmir on December 8, 2014: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/gk-magazine/applying-to-a-foreign-university-iii/181964.html

The Curious Case of The Indian Republic

If someday I am to write a book, I will certainly be interested in dirtying my hands in the murky waters of history writing; but I am not sure how I would go about doing it. One thing that I am certain about, however, is that like every other author worth his or her salt, I will cherry pick my facts and give my own interpretation of the past and showcase it as ‘history’.

EH Carr puts it so well in his seminal work What is History?:

It used to be said that facts speak for themselves. This is, of course, untrue. The facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context. It was, I think, one of Pirandello’s characters who said that a fact is like a sack—it won’t stand up till you’ve put something in it . . . The historian is necessarily selective. The belief in the hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.

Therefore, the old adage “Is hamam mein sab nange hain” aptly explains the nature of history writing. As much as one wishes otherwise, everyone is naked in the bath of historiography.

Having said that, the caveat that I think should always be adhered to is that people like Y Sudershan Rao and Dinanath Batra should not be allowed to venture inside in any case, because it is one thing to be reasonably naked and it is altogether a different thing to be shamelessly and recklessly so. These gentlemen do not want to write history, but want to spread a load of malarkey and poppycock.

Given the way that team Modi is building a gang of chaddi nincompoops to expedite its cultural project, it seems they will succeed to some extent in at least rendering few impressionistic minds pathetically garbled and wired. If they do succeed in achieving such a feat, then the current chairperson of the Indian Council for Historical Research must be conferred with at least a Bharat Ratna, if not the Nobel Prize. He is an ideal bhakt who religiously attend the “national workshop of the Mythic Society in connection with their project on ‘Re-Writing the History of our Glorious Nation’”. Wallah! The British colonial historians must be turning in their graves!

The serious contender to the ICHR head is his fellow bhakt—Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma, who thinks that only those Indian Muslims who can make ballistic missiles for nuclear warheads are real nationalists. Just a few weeks ago, he threw open an exhibition at Rabindra Bhavan, titled “Cultural Continuity from Rig Veda to Robotics”. A pamphlet circulated at the exhibition by its organisers, the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas (I-SERVE), demonstrated that the present dispensation at New Delhi not only has knack for throwing election jumlas but pose some serious pathological challenges like fascistic-neurosis. Their objective, they clearly stated in their publication, is to “provide a solid foundation to the new idea of rewriting the history of the world on purely scientific basis”. Then, one should not be surprised if tomorrow, these history ninjas claim that Mark Zuckerberg or even Google is the 9.5th avatar of Vishnu!

Of course, India is what its corporate media and intellectuals tell us it is. At the stroke of the midnight on 15 August 1947 Nehru claimed that India had rediscovered itself (although the likes of Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm would have laughed their asses off at such primordialist naïveté, because every nation-state is, ultimately, a “construct”). Amartya Sen believes that an Indian is virtuously argumentative (and still in his books one finds arguments over disputed Kashmir confined to footnotes only).

Ramachandra Guha believes that Nehru created a “liberal, humanist credo” and that the Indian democracy accommodates diversities (and yet he fails to see the Indian state, even under Nehru, suppressing and disappearing dissenters in many places without much opposition from India’s public intellectuals, including himself; he should read Perry Anderson’s essay ‘After Nehru’ in theLondon Review of Books). Ananya Vajpyei thinks it is a “Righteous Republic” (and is outraged at Arundhati Roy for despoiling the righteous image of Gandhi in her preface to Annihilation of Caste) and yet, NDTV and Zee and other mainstream channels regularly produce and disseminate “unity in diversity” lollypops for mass consumption (read manufacturing consent).

All these savarna intellectuals and networks diligently work on the grand national project called‘Aisa Desh Hai Mera’, à la Yash Chopra, without ever telling their audiences that for much of the populations who are at the receiving end of the bourgeoisie dominance and the margins of the Indian State, all this talk is bunkum, outrageous, and serves no other purpose but the further entrenchment of the ruling classes (or castes?).

Therefore, it is better to select those facts that highlight those dingy and grey areas of politic-space which often escape the filtering lenses of the pseudo-liberal savarna intellectuals, who dominate the Indian mainstream media, and it is equally good to upset the bulging stomachs of the self-righteousbhakts because they are pathetically intolerant to those foods which provoke alternative humanistic thoughts.

As the cliché goes, Modi is the poster boy of Hindutva, a doctrine of right-wing nationalism or a distant cousin of European fascism. Generally an adherent of this doctrine is a neurotic person who is obsessed with one and only one entity: Muslims. From Abdali to Aurangzeb to Jinnah to Owaisi (and occasionally Geelani), a Hindutva nationalist only sees a spectre of Muslims hovering over its head. For a Hindutva nationalist, Mussalmaan is the source of all ills that beset India and the Hindu society because it was the Muslims who robbed India’s glory through successive invasions in the past and the partition of 1947. So, in order to regain that lost glory and pride, bhakts want to turn the clock back to a utopian Vedic era of interstellar cars, televisions, plastic surgery and rid India of the foreign influences that have crept into its body-politic.

As such, Modi has unleashed his grand political project, which in the words of Stuart Hall can be called “regressive modernization”. It is regressive for it is obsessively nostalgic about the Gupta empire (supposedly “the Golden Age”), and it is modernising because it wants Chandragupta to grab a coffee with Zuckerberg at Silicon Valley, or at least let Apple manufacture a few parts for the iPhone in India or, to give a Marxist turn to it, install mega engines of global capitalism on lands stolen from poor farmers.

According to Antonio Gramsci, an organic crisis “consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” Exactly at such an interregnum, “a man of destiny” appears on the scene and presents himself as the solution to all ills; though, his solution is not any well-formulated rational program but the sheer power of his 56-inch chest. This man of destiny is readily hailed by frustrated elites. The party of thesavarna castes, on whose behest he works, hires a costly PR agency for his makeover; they trim his graying beard, puts on impeccable ethnic suits and make him wear Gucci specs and a shimmering Swiss watch. This makes him look far better than a modern-day Nero! At public rallies and foreign tours he throws jumla after jumla and his acolytes in the media provide him much space to build his image and let him spread his capitalist propaganda. And ironically, he launches the Digital India initiative in San Francisco by imposing an 80-hour Internet ban in India-controlled Kashmir first!

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First published in the Kindle Magazine on October 1, 2015: http://kindlemag.in/the-curious-case-of-the-indian-republic/