Jan 7, 2021

Why am I shutting down the Indian Philosophy Olympiad?

 Why am I shutting down the Indian Philosophy Olympiad?

The Journey

I started this endeavour in November 2007 to give a shape to my creativity and to do something for my country, a path I knew I would have to walk solo. Since then it has been hundreds of hours of planning, coding and administration and over ten thousand hours of  teaching students who were utter novices in Philosophy and about 15 lakh rupees from my pocket to sustain this endeavour. 

The result was that until 2 years ago, India ranked among the top 5 nations out of 45, consistently for over 5 years. Both students who participated each year got medals, and always at least one silver. The gold somehow always eluded me. Maybe I now know why.

The aside was a host of wonderful experiences with people from dozens of nations and most of who, I thought, were like family.

Did I achieve my goals? Creativity was on an all time high with setting up a unique way (from what I gathered from other teams) to select and train young minds into rational thought. However, I failed to get the media to recognize what the country was getting out of this, in terms of medals. I had hoped to go on until the end of my time and establish the Indian Philosophy Olympiad as my legacy to the nation.  

The Termination 

In my enthusiasm, and what a loving friend puts as my child-like qualities, I failed to notice the simmering discontent among some of the senior members of the International Philosophy Olympiad. I failed to see them distancing themselves from me. And I totally failed to counter what can only be called as internal politics. I am actually pretty bad at that.

Suddenly in 2018 some of these members tried to bring about a rule that non-philosophy graduates cannot be a part of the IPO. I am an astronomy graduate. I was prevented from jurying that year, which after a lot of arguing, I could manage to do. 

The next year, May 2019, just a few days before the IPO, and after all my travel plans and my team had been prepared, I was told that I cannot be a part of the IPO delegation, because I had misbehaved in front of my students. I haven't been given any details yet. 

I tried to argue my case over emails, in vain. Every sincere point met with a flurry of irrational accusations and mockery. I asked each of my students, especially the females, if I had ever given them reason to feel offended and none of them had a clue about these accusations,

Almost the entire committee of delegates which rules the IPO (There is no higher body) was somehow convinced that I was "evil". Even though some sane voices among them tried to convince them otherwise, I was declared a persona non grata at the IPO. 

What followed was only anguish and denial on my part that this was clearly an attempt to remove me from the picture, solely because of the success of the Indian delegation over the years. What followed was bouts of bad health and cynicism towards everything, especially TEACHING. And teaching is what I live for.

Now, I am out of resources and out of wits and the only way I can keep myself alive and working is to forget the IPO and everything that ever happened these past 13 years.

I sincerely apologise to the hundreds of hopefuls who apply every month for the Indian selection process. I hope you can use your creativity elsewhere. And I hope that others learn from my mistakes and never try to go solo in any public endeavor, however righteous the cause.

Finally, I sincerely apologise to my friends at the IPO who urged me to persevere.