Shantanu Garg, CMC- Personal Statement

Shantanu fittingly wrote about the political, philosophical, and economical aspects of a major problem. He also wrote about his long-term goals and how he would achieve them. Interestingly, he mentioned some eminent professors of the college and the way their work would help him. Shantanu wrote about two extremely interesting internships and their effects on him.


Shantanu Garg, Claremont McKenna College

Personal Statement, 1-2 pages on what you hope to gain from the PPE program and what you will bring to the PPE program.

As my car painfully crawled through the mayhem that is Delhi traffic, an adage transcribed on a gas station board caught my attention. “In the world we hear about a lot of ‘great’ men”, it said,” but only a few ‘good’ men.”  While I pondered the profoundness of the quote, an emaciated mother knocked on my window, pleading for money to feed her starving baby.Normally the pragmatic economist in me would induce me to callously ignore this pathetic human state that was completely undeserved. He would argue that even if I wanted to be altruistic, I could gain more utility by donating the money to a more effective charity.But at that moment a question, invoked by the adage, prodded my conscience. What would a good man do? What would Kant, Gandhi, or Muhammad Yunus -- good men who I look up to –do in my position?The answer was not obvious.On further reflection, I realized that this impasse did not reflect shortcomings on behalf of Kant’s, Gandhi’s or Yunus’ ideology, but it stemmed from my narrow application of their philosophies.Just like the six blind men who, feeling different parts of an elephant, fail miserably to agree upon the description of its exterior, I could not hope to overcome my moral blindness by assuming the role of only a philosopher or a politician or an economist.I had to see the whole picture.In order to achieve an all-encompassing perspective, I had to integrate philosophy, politics and economics into one.By doing PPE I hope to achieve that holistic lens that will make me see the whole elephant clearly.Empowered and enlightened with this clear vision I hope to see the world as a beautiful impressionist painting in its entirety, rather than individual clusters of haphazard brush strokes.

This summer I learnt two important things about myself from my two internships at E&Y and UNDP. Firstly I learnt that I do not like being one dimensional. At E&Y I worked with the Risk Advisory Services with a specific client; a job which was definitely an enriching experience, but ultimately became mundane and overbearing. At UNDP I had to establish inter-linkages between their various projects on governance, convergence, climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity. Here I observed first-hand the philosophical and economic thinking that goes behind the enactment of a social service project, and the ultimate political will that is required for its successful implementation. Apart from being intellectually stimulating, the multifaceted nature of this internship excited me. At UNDP I learnt why I wanted to do PPE. Secondly this summer I got a direction towards my life goal. As Mahatma Gandhi said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”, I learnt that I want to be one of the “few good men.”I do not seek fame or power or money, instead I strive to conscientiously do the right thing. A good man’s conscience always compels him to serve his society. It is this conscience of mine that feels slighted when I see a poor mother deprived of the basic right to provide for her baby, while I sit in an air-conditioned car merely three feet away. Such stark inequalities of life are wrong and unjust.

Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” echo in my mind.  To pacify my wounded conscience,I pursue change in the society that forms an intimate part of my identity. I seek to fundamentally change Indian society. I want to make a difference at the grass-roots level – perhapsas a politician, maybe as a social worker or even as a government servant. Each role, however, undeniably relies upon philosophy, politics, and economics. To effect change I know I need to be well-rounded,to hold a firm set of socially-enriching convictions, and to possess a robust analytical skill set that a program like PPE can develop in me. It is a skill set that will make me a logical thinker, a convincing writer, an eloquent speaker, a critical reader and an ardent listener; a skill set that is essential to the pursuit of excellence in any profession – but mine especially.Even the thought of being involved in perpetual discussion with a class of keen studentsabout the world’s most ingenious texts, guided by professors who are experts in their fields, truly fascinates me. Ultimately the idea that over 3 years I could be discussing the political implications of “Development as Freedom” with Professor Hurley, understanding the ethical dimension to the problem of growing population with Professor Elliot after reading “Population and Development”, and using AmartyaSen to defend Galbraith'sviews in “The Affluent Society” while in a tutorial with Professor Blomberg, captivates my intellectual appetite.

To best illustrate my life perspective, I will draw from the ethos of India which has shaped the person I am today. Mahatma Gandhi once famously stated that, “The soul of India lives in its villages.” I have spent almost my entire childhood in a pastoral or semi-urban setting. My father’s job profile as an Indian Administrative Officer (I.A.S) has acquainted me with the real India, the India of villages; the one that is scantily advertised but forms the crux of a billion-person nation. My father’s postings have taken me to some economically backward and underdeveloped districts; districts where the Human Development Index (HDI) for Education, Health and Income was as low as 0.5. These were places where basic necessities such as competent drainage systems, constant flow of electricity,and clean streets were not longed for – they were unheard of. My life has exposed me to the everyday adversities a common Indian has to overcome in order to survive an unyielding and chaotic system which the elite take for granted. It has also shown me the resolve, resilience and faith of the poorest people; people who have reached the zenith of spirituality. Furthermore, I have been allowed to assess the intricacies of a bureaucratic institution fraught with sycophants, under the table dealings and red tapism. I have had a personal glimpse into Indian politics where democracy works because it has very harmoniously adapted to the undemocratic rigid social structures of the past; a system where people go to the polling booths not to cast their vote but to vote their caste. To further enhance my knowledge and broaden my viewpoint, this winter I will be living in a village which has become the epitome of sustainable development in India. HereI will be working with the renowned social activist Anna Hazare who spearheads the anti-corruption movement in India.

I think that through my journey from a school where one had to sit on the groundto one of the most elite schools in India I have had the opportunity to observe each strata of the Indian society which has honed my insight into human nature and made me perceptive. I have learned to adapt, to value and to appreciate life. I am sure that my experiences will provide a very distinctive voice in the PPE class; a voice for the real India which is rarely heard.I am an Indian who cherishes an ancient golden past, who also acknowledges the discrepancies and shortcoming of the present, but ultimately one who realizes the limitless potential that India holds to contribute to the world in the future. I can relate to ethical philosophies and their impact on society, the divide between political theory and political practice, and the need for sound economic policy because I have lived it. I have experienced first-hand the need for a PPE education. If given an opportunity to study PPE, I would be the balanced voice of reason that would provide the dimension of service and economic development to the lively debates. I would diligently work towards forming agenuine opinion after respectfully taking into consideration all aspects of the argument, including my own pre-formed beliefs. But once formed unless challenged by reason, I would vigorously argue till the end.  Through PPE I will slowly form a balanced and reasonable set of convictions, which I will then defend with complete honesty using the skill set that PPE inculcates in me. Ultimately I intend to use PPE as a tool to reach conclusions regarding certain questions in life. Philosophical question like what do good men do? Political and economic questions like how do good men do it? Questions that will define the kind of good man I want to be.