Miscellany

Farewell to Nalini!

  • Blog Post Date 27 April, 2022
  • Perspectives
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Ashok Kotwal

Editor-in-Chief, I4I; University of British Columbia

kotwal.ashok@gmail.com

March 31, 2022 was Nalini’s last day as the Managing Editor of I4I. Though she had kept us appraised of her graduate school plans for a long time, her departure left us shaken. Nalini has been accepted for a Ph.D. program at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University at Singapore on the President’s Graduate Fellowship. This is what she was working towards over the last two years, and I am glad that things have worked out for her as if according to the script. We congratulate her on her success and wish her good luck for her life as a graduate student.

‘Ideas for India’ was launched by the India programme of the International Growth Centre 10 years ago to disseminate research findings to a general audience. The idea was to create a new voice in the cacophony of conversations around  India’s economic development – a voice that would be distinct in the reliability of the information it conveyed. The hope was to create a forum for well-informed discourse on vital policy matters. I had no idea how this was going to turn out. Many of my academic friends predicted a short life for the proposed project. Some asked what were the incentives for the contributors; why should they waste their time? 

Nalini was a Country Economist with IGC India then. She agreed also to take on the Managing Editorship of our new portal. This made all the difference to the prospects of this project fraught with uncertainties. She assumed command over different aspects of the operation: working with authors to make technical content more accessible and engaging, laying down procedures for unsolicited submissions and to track relevant new research, planning the publication schedule, organising public events, managing collaborations (for example, with the annual conference of Indian Statistical Institute, Tata Centre for development of the University of Chicago, Mint newspaper, etc.), expanding our networks among researchers and policy stakeholders, hiring teams to process video/audio interviews and panel discussions, keeping tabs on the budget, supporting fundraising efforts, line-managing the editorial team, coordinating with IGC’s London office, and reporting to the Editorial Board on website analytics and performance. In short, she ran the whole show – supported by team members such as I4I’s Logistics Manager Freeda and Content Editor Vikas – and learned the ropes so quickly that I4I had a smooth run since the very beginning. 

Most importantly, Nalini helped me form a vision for I4I. We shared the belief that we must continuously endeavour to expand the scope of I4I and enhance quality. Many such efforts along these lines were our joint efforts. She was gentle in her arguments and yet had well-founded views.  Every single morning, we chatted about the day and the plans for the next day and beyond. Given the time difference between Vancouver and Delhi, it meant her working days were unreasonably long. 

A lot of our discussions were about the way forward. Slowly, ideas for new features emerged – a Hindi section, Notes from the Field, Perspectives, Panel discussions, Explainers, e-Symposiums on topics of the day (for example, farm laws), and now Conversations. The mission for I4I was no longer confined to dissemination of research findings to the general public. In addition, it became an active forum for discussing policy problems and possible solutions in a timely fashion. As the viewership and contributor pool expanded, we realised that there was also growing interest from the academic community and this nudged us to provide a platform for methodological essays. None of this could have been achieved without Nalini’s keen participation at each stage from conceptualisation to implementation. 

Nalini started her career at IGC as a well-trained economist (M.Phil. Economics from Oxford). She developed an interest in gender over the years. I started relying on her advice on submissions in this area. She has been writing on issues such as women’s work participation, gender budgeting, and so on, and her views are often solicited by the media and other forums. I believe that her doctoral research will be at the intersection of gender, health, and behavioural economics.

Nalini has played many different roles in the growth of I4I. She was the midwife at its birth. She nurtured it to adulthood. Somewhere along the way, she led the process of giving I4I a new web platform, with the latest features and functionalities. Even when the time came for her to step away, she worked hard to ensure that the management of I4I would remain in safe hands. Two years ago, she played a major role in recruiting Michele, another talented economist from LSE. By the time Nalini’s plans for graduate school had firmed up, Michele had learned enough on the job to be able to step into Nalini’s shoes. But as luck would have it, Michele had the same graduate school dreams and wanted to take up a pre-doctoral fellowship. It was a daunting task to recruit a suitable person for one position, leave alone two. Several of my friends who read the job posting – seeking someone with skills in economics, writing, and management – said ‘forget it, no such person exists!’ But IGC’s Communications Head Emilie and Nalini persisted in their search. They advertised and readvertised and received over a hundred applications. They worked hard to sort through these applications, setting up editing tests, shortlisting, and participating in the final selection. Two of these applications stood out. It was like manna from heaven. We wasted no time in hiring Ishita Trivedi in the position of Managing Editor and Nikita Mujumdar as a Deputy Managing Editor. Ishita has already joined I4I and Nikita will join in the first week of May. The transition has happened remarkably smoothly. Michele has graciously agreed to stay on through June.

I can go on and on about what Nalini has done for I4I. One of her key contributions has been to ensure a smooth transition to a post-Nalini regime. Yes, we have a great new team and we will continue to thrive. But I will continue to miss my morning coffee with Nalini. With a hot cuppa in one hand and my cellphone in the other, we had these lovely chats about I4I issues and the world at large. I am already missing it.

2 Comments:

By: Megha Patnaik

This is such a wonderful piece. Wishes to you Ashok Sir.

By: Nalini Gulati

Thank you so much Ashok, for this thoughtful and generous note. It has been an absolute privilege to work closely with you over the past decade, on this shared mission of promoting evidence-based policy discourse. It has been so fulfilling to see I4I's success, and I hope it continues to go from strength to strength. I have gained tremendously from your mentorship and it is this rich experience that has led me to my new endeavour. Our daily chats - about life, the universe and everything - always sparked joy for me, and are memories I will cherish :)

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