Only the most charitable would write it off as “aspiration”: the more realistic would deem sinister and fraudulent the quickly-exposed attempt by Misa Bharati to create an impression she had delivered a lecture from a prestigious platform at Harvard when she was just an invited member of the audience.

More than merely for the record it must be clarified that Misa is a daughter of the one-and-only Lalu Prasad, and that her curious name is an acronym of ‘Maintenance of Internal Security Act’ under which he had been incarcerated during the Emergency. From her much publicised comments on Facebook it was apparent that Misa had been awfully anxious to emulate her Dad, who made much of how a lad who grazed cattle as a kid went on to make it to an Ivy League lectern. And so Misa posed for photographs on the podium at the John F Kennedy School of Government though she was actually a member of the audience at an India-related conference, and subsequently misused social media to project herself: only to provoke a most damaging clarification from the university. Well, she did have her 15 seconds of fame, or infamy many would insist. Misa clearly missed the bus to misconstrued stardom.

Yet what stands confirmed is that so many of us Indians are “upwardly mobile”. Time was when a trip abroad, to a western destination preferably, was a massive status symbol, and in some circles a sign of accomplishment. Flaunting got-abroad goodies was another indication of progress in the pecking order. And while having studied at Oxford or Cambridge was a sign of blue-blood, a phoren degree did more than raise one&’s “stock” on the marriage market (read dowry demand). True that initially the intention was to avail of quality education at reputed institutions worldwide, that “desire” has spread: so much so that little-known colleges in Australia, Canada and a few other countries have successfully “sold themselves” on the Indian market, indeed thrive off our youth.

Never mind that quite a few of the students would have lacked the academic credentials to secure admission to any of the leading colleges in this country. In retrospect it is possible to see from where Misa “was coming”. Who can deny that a phoren certificate facilitates “going places…”