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News Category: News

I have no idea what a smart city means: Rahul Mehrotra

Mehrotra says the problem with smart cities is that they are founded on capital and investment, but don’t consider the human being as part of this equation. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

This article was published originally in Livemint.

By Dhamini Ratnam

Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art will host a series of talks, events and exhibitions on contemporary architecture in India and South Asia early next year, organized by Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), an independent think tank based in the city. The exhibition has been co-curated by architect Rahul Mehrotra, cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote and architecture critic Kaiwan Mehta, with the objective of bringing the discussion on architecture back to the centre stage.

Mehrotra juggles many roles—he is the founder of Mumbai-based RMA Architects, a trustee of UDRI, and over the past decade, professor of urban design and planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He is also on the steering committee of the South Asia Institute at Harvard University. His latest collaboration with a team of researchers and students from the institute led to the book Kumbh Mela: Mapping The Ephemeral Mega City, which was released in New Delhi earlier this week. The book looks at the way the Kumbh Mela operates quite successfully as a temporary city.

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    SAI seeks Communications and Outreach Intern

    Timeframe: Fall Term with potential to renew for Spring Term


    The Intern for the South Asia Institute, a paid position, will gain valuable insight and experience in the day-to-day operations of a vibrant and dynamic University-wide Institute focused on advancing education and research on South Asia at Harvard. The Communications and Outreach Intern will work with SAI’s Communications and Outreach Coordinator to help to maintain the SAI website and will help develop and distribute outreach and marketing materials, including social media, website posts, and the weekly newsletter. The Intern will have the opportunity to generate story ideas and write content for the SAI website and newsletter. The Intern will help with other outreach efforts including updating SAI’s database and researching media contacts. The Intern will assist with SAI events, including the process of publicizing events digitally and around campus. Working in collaboration with the SAI team, the Intern will also assist the Executive Director on special projects as needed.

    Harvard undergraduate and graduate students interested in international education, cultural exchange, marketing and public relations, journalism, social media, and higher education administration are encouraged to apply.

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      Kumbh Mela book and exhibition launch in Delhi

      Kumbh Mela launch, Delhi

      Rahul Mehrotra, right, shows the exhibit to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, center

      On Monday, August 17, the Harvard South Asia Institute launched the Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition in Delhi, India. Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, was on hand to launch the book with Harvard faculty, to a crowd of over 250 people at the Oberoi Hotel.

      Over fifty Harvard professors, students, administrative staff, and medical practitioners made the pilgrimage to Allahabad, India, to the Kumbh Mela site in 2013, to analyze issues that emerge in any large-scale human gathering. The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book consolidates research findings and serves as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.

      Meena Hewett, Executive Director, SAI, gave the introductory remarks, stating the book has produced a set of teaching tools, useful across the disciplines of public health, data science, architecture, urban planning, business, religion and culture. This was followed by a welcome address by Mr. Vikram Gandhi, a member of the SAI Advisory Council and the managing director and global head of the Financial Institutions Group at Credit Suisse.

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        Fall course: Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems

        SW47: Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems

        Mondays and Wednesdays 3:30–5:00 pm
        Sever Hall Rm 113 (Harvard Yard)

        Offered jointly with the Business School as 1266, the School of Public Health as GHP 568, the Kennedy School as PED-338, the Law School as HLS 2543 and the Graduate School of Education as A-819.

        Co-taught by:

        Tarun KhannaJorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; Director, Harvard South Asia Institute

        Satchit Balsari, Assistant Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College; Director of the Weill Cornell Medical College Global Emergency Medicine Program; Fellow Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights

        Krzysztof Gajos, Associate Professor, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences 

        Doris Sommer, Ira Jewell Williams, Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literature; Director of Graduate Studies in Spanish, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

        Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design

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          Aug. 17, Delhi: Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity Book Launch

          Join the Harvard University South Asia Institute for the launch of the book and exhibition Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity.

          Monday, August 17, 2015, The Oberoi Hotel, Dr Zakir Hussain Marg, Delhi, India

          Over fifty Harvard professors, students, administrative staff, and medical practitioners made the pilgrimage to Allahabad, India, to the Kumbh Mela site in 2013, to analyze issues that emerge in any large-scale human gathering. The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book consolidates research findings and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard. Please join Harvard faculty and Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, at the launch event.

          High tea reception followed by a panel discussion.

          The exhibition will be on display following the event at the India Habitat Centre, Experimental art gallery, from August 18th to August 23rd.

          Please RSVP to Namrata Arora,

          Cosponsored with the Harvard Club of India

            The Passing of an Idealist

            APJ Abdul Kalam, right, with Tarun Khanna, center, and Harvard president Drew Faust, left

            By Tarun KhannaDirector of the South Asia Institute & Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

            This post was originally published on Linkedin.

            The passing of the 11th President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, has triggered an outpouring of affection. The so-called “missile man,” named after his former career as a scientist and researcher involved with India’s space and missile programs, was popularly also called the People’s President.

            This outpouring prompted me to reflect on the two recent occasions I had to meet the man. The first was in the fall of 2011 at Harvard, when the South Asia Institute invited him to give our annual Mahindra Lecture to the community. Above is a photograph of the President meeting Professor Drew Faust, the President of Harvard (and I’m, rightly, in the background!).

            During this visit, I remember several interactions between President Kalam and varied audiences at Harvard. We had asked whether he’d be willing to speak more than once, and I remember that he accepted with alacrity, none of the fuss that seems to come with celebrities. There was a public talk to the Cambridge community, the highlight of the visit available here.

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              Harvard For Nepal online photo exhibition

              As part of SAI’s Harvard For Nepal initiative, SAI has launched an online photo exhibit to document the country’s reconstruction process.

              We invite Harvard affiliates to submit photos taken while in Nepal by emailing Meghan Smith,, or on social media using the hashtag #HarvardforNepal.


                Reflections on India’s future

                By Kathleen Molony, Director, Fellows Program, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

                The Fellows of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA) concluded their year at Harvard with a one week trip to India in May 2015. As the largest research center within Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Weatherhead Center annually invites outstanding senior-level practitioners of international affairs to the University.

                While at Harvard, Fellows pursue a research project, among other scholarly activities. As part of their experience, the Fellows Program occasionally organizes an international study trip for the purposes of introducing the Fellows to an important and influential country. This year’s choice of India was a logical one, given the presence of a Fellow from India, Shreyas Navare. Harvard’s South Asia Institute and the Mumbai-based Harvard India Research Center helped plan the trip.

                The official meetings in Mumbai and New Delhi included a briefing on US-India relations with Walter Douglas, head of public affairs for the US Mission India; a conversation with Mr. Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Joint Secretary (Americas) Ministry of External Affairs; and a briefing from UK High Commissioner to India and 2006-2007 WCFIA Fellow Sir James Bevan.

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                  Update on SAI’s mobile technology summer program

                  During this 8-week summer program in India, Harvard College students are exploring the potential of mobile technology to enable economic and social mobility. They spent the first few weeks of the summer program in Ahmedabad and Delhi, where they visited organizations that are using the technology in innovative ways, and learning from experts from a variety of fields.

                  Visit our blog for more!