By the time you see this, I will be somewhere over Eurasia bound for Delhi. Over the next few weeks I’ll be traveling around India, where I’ll be giving talks and attending events on behalf of the U.S. State Department. Regular Via Meadia readers know I do trips like this from time to time. These aren’t political events, and I’ve done them through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. It’s a way for me to learn about the world and meet interesting thinkers and policy makers; it’s also a way to help Uncle Sam and show some appreciation for American diplomats who work very hard at what are often dangerous and thankless jobs.
This is my third visit to India overall, and the second time I’ve gone for the State Department. I’ll be covering some new ground this time, visiting Chennai, Hyderabad, and Srinagar as well as returning to some of my old stomping grounds like Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. As usual I’ll be talking to a range of people—from policymakers and senior academics to students and interested citizens at a mix of elite and non-elite settings around the country. I’ll also meet with journalists and give some interviews.
Some of the events will be recorded and where possible I’ll post videos of talks that I give; we’ll have links as well to any press coverage that the visit gets. Peter Mellgard, who works closely with me on everything that has to do with the blog, is coming along for part of the trip and will be posting pictures as well.
I’ll continue to blog from the road, and the Via Meadia team back in the U.S. will work with me as we continue to follow the big stories we think are changing the world, but to make sure the site continues to offer fresh and interesting insights, I’ve asked some friends to help out while I’m away. John Ellis, one of the savviest political minds in the country is going to be chipping in. Adam Garfinkle, the AI editor-in-chief and leading Middle East expert will be chiming in from time to time. My Bard colleague Roger Berkowitz has agreed to chip in, and I’ve asked my brother Chris Mead to write as well. Chris works with local chambers of commerce around the country (he isn’t affiliated with the national Chamber) and is in the middle of writing a book on the unexpectedly powerful impact that local chambers of commerce have had on American history. These guys will be contributing pieces under their own bylines and suggesting stories to the staff for our daily feed.
Bard classes start just a little more than a week after I get back, so in many ways my summer ends today and it is back to the old grind. I’m sorry to see the slow time of year end so quickly and there’s a part of me that wishes I were staying in the stately Mead manor for the rest of the month, but over the years I’ve found that unless you get out on the road, immerse yourself in the culture and politics of other countries, and listen carefully to what other people have to say, you can get trapped in your own preconceptions.
India is on the short list of countries whose successes and failures will shape the new century; it’s a place that Americans need to understand better and it is perhaps the most complicated political society in the world. I’ve barely scratched the surface of India myself, and one more visit isn’t going to make me an expert. But I’ll learn a bit more and know more about what to watch—what stories to follow, what journalists and thinkers are on top of things, and how Indians see America. This will, I hope make the blog better when I return, and in the meantime I’m looking forward to some long distance blogging from half a world away.
I am also looking forward to Indian food. Glamorous Queens is rich in South Asian restaurants, so I don’t starve at home, but there’s something wonderful about good Indian food three times a day, every day, for weeks at a time. There’s enough variety that I never get tired of it, and as I’ll be traveling from the far south to the far north I’ll be able to savor some of the regional cuisines.
Meanwhile, I hope the fare on the blog remains tasty and spicy; I like blogging too much to give it up completely, but it’s good to know that I have friends and associates who will keep the flame alive while I’m away.