I have spent the last quarter century in a state of geographic flux, attempting to understand how the different parts of the globe fit together jigsaw-like.
After growing up in New Delhi in the 1980s and upon graduating from university in the UK, I have worked as a journalist in India, China, the EU, Indonesia and Japan.
Over the course of my career to date, I have experienced life inside a wide spectrum of democracies, as well as inside an autocracy.
I have also seen up close the challenges of decolonization, of balancing the rights of majority and minority communities in multi-ethnic/multi-religious states, as well as the challenges of economic liberalization and of efforts to construct supra-national identities.
Self-discovery and global understanding: Two sides of a coin
What I have realized along that way is just how much learning about other places is an integral part of learning about oneself – and one’s own country.
Intriguingly, what can very much stand in the way during this twin journey of self-discovery and global understanding is the fact that, of all places, the ones we are most familiar with often remain the most confounding of all.
The need for comparisons
I have also learned first-hand that truth is rarely singular and always messy. And any attempt to grasp it is doomed without the ability to see the world from multiple points of view.
That is why developing a finely tuned comparative framework is an essential perquisite prerequisite on this journey.
I think of it as a “double vision” – in the sense of becoming practiced at looking at the world from various angles simultaneously. This is key to deepening both understanding and empathy.
And it is precisely this approach that The Globalist magazine has turned into a trademark editorial approach called “Global Pairings.” These features explore the world two countries, or two regions, at a time, allowing for a more complete and nuanced perspective on the issues under consideration.
My global journey
For me, this “double vision” has long been second nature. My first post as an Indian foreign correspondent was in Beijing from 2002-2009. Next, I was based in Brussels
for three years (2009-2012), followed by Jakarta (2012-2016), and Japan (2016-2020), before moving to Madrid, where I am currently a resident.
Every new posting has sharpened my awareness of the importance of implicit norms in interpreting events.
A good analyst needs to realize that these norms are cultural lenses that have a direct bearing upon her observations and conclusions. Because these norms are not always obvious, even to herself, they involve a dialectic process of journeying within and outwards towards global understanding.
Circular flows of learning
In my role, I would like to ensure that this mission is expanded with a particular emphasis on Asia.
For too long, knowledge transfers and “best practices” have acted in unidirectional flows, from West to East. I believe that, as globalists, we need to conceive of these flows as not only being multi-directional, but also circular, like the globe itself.
The need for empathy
From the United States and Europe, to the countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa, the world is increasingly marred by populism and resurgent tribalisms. Empathy and a plurality of perspectives encompassing geography, gender, class and religion are the only basis for forging a constructive path forward.
The Globalist has been committed to these values for the two decades since its inception and I am excited to be on this journey with it and with you, its readers.