What role does engineering education play in our modern society? According to Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, engineering is crucial to a well-rounded society.
On Thursday, February 27, SAI hosted its first webinar of the semester, titled ‘Societal Grand Challenges and the role of Engineering Education in the 21st Century’ with Professor Narayanamurti, who described engineering as “the ultimate liberal art” because of its role as a linking discipline.
Using videoconference software provided by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), 15 sites in South Asia were able to participate live and interact with Narayanamurti. Viewers were also able to watch the webinar live on SAI’s website, and submit questions via Facebook and Twitter.
Narayanamurti started by describing the importance of engineering at leading universities like Harvard, saying that “we want renaissance engineers who not only know how things work, but how the world works.” He explained that all of the major accomplishments throughout history have happened because of engineering, and the economic impact of engineering is huge. “Engineering underpins the economy,” he said.
Explaining the role of engineering as a linking discipline, Narayanamurti said, “engineering is not applied science; it is science that is applied engineering.” He made a strong case for a well education in all fields, and said that we must encourage students to learn the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurship.
Another ‘grand challenge’ of engineering education is getting women involved, which Narayanamurti explained is vital for societies. He explained that women’s access to science education is more of a challenge in the developing world, but not one that cannot be overcome. Having women leaders in all fields is an important step: “Can women be renaissance engineers? Yes!” he said. “We need more women role models so that it is an accepted reality.”
Narayanamurti spent time explaining what skills are vital to engineering education. From teaching his own class, he has learned that creativity, as well as analytic and problem-solving skills, are essential. Since Harvard has a strong global presence, it can serve to be a leader for this sort of education.
Throughout his presentation, Narayanamurti emphasized the importance of merging the study of engineering with biology, by combining the perfection of biology with the creativity of engineering, because “nature perfected how human beings and the living world were created.” Technology is evolving to become more human-like, which means merging biology with engineering is more important than ever.
After his presentation, Narayanamurti took questions from students and education leaders at the participating sites, as well as questions on social media from viewers in Pakistan, India, and Australia.
The universities participating live were: Bahria University Islamabad, Bahria University, Karachi, Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Attack, Dadabhoy Institute of Higher Education, Fatima Jinnah Women’s University, Rawalpindi, Institute of Space and Technology Islamabad, Kinnaird College For Women, Lahore College of Women University, Lahore, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences Islamabad, University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, University of Malakand, and University Of Sargodah, Sargodah.
Mariam Chughtai, Ed.D. Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education, moderated the discussion, and Meena Hewett, Executive Director of SAI gave an introduction. Erum Sattar, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School, tracked the discussion on social media.
SAI’s webinars are made possible with the support of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC).
When teaching kids about basketball, the importance of rebounding is always included. But what about teaching this skill in the classroom?
According to Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy, these types of basketball skills are just as applicable on the basketball court as they are off the court for many kids in India.
Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy is an international basketball program in India committed to teaching basketball and to providing educational opportunities for its participants. Based in Chennai, India, Crossover uses basketball as a tool to help kids succeed in the classroom.
SAI recently talked to Jonah Travis, a junior at Harvard College studying government and economics, about his experience working at Crossover last summer. Travis is a member of the Harvard men’s basketball team.
Travis got involved with Crossover at the urging of some of his assistant coaches who were familiar with Shaun Jayachandran, the founder of Crossover. Despite never having been to India, Travis found that the experience made him realize the power of basketball: “It opened my eyes to see exactly what this game can do,” he says.
Travis served as a counselor at the camp, and worked with participants who ranged in age from 7 years old to juniors in high school. He helped the volunteers teach standard basketball skills – passing, dribbling, shooting – but took it a step further by teaching them critical skills for the classroom. Skills like teamwork, discipline, hard work, dedication and rebounding are important in basketball, and Crossover recognizes that these skills are just as important in life as they are in sports.
For example, Travis recalled asking the children about how they can make their basketball jumping better. The kids answered by saying that they should practice more, which provided Travis with the opportunity to explain that the same idea could be applied to school work like reading and writing. The same could be said for skills like discipline and teamwork.
“We are able to teach them different life lessons that basketball teaches them, and show they that you can apply basketball to what you learn in other aspects of your life,” Travis says. “You don’t have to be so tunnel-vision with the sport.”
Not only was Travis able to share his basketball skills, he was also able to serve as a mentor and an example of someone who has gained educational opportunities because of basketball; playing basketball professionally does not have to be the only way to succeed. Crossover uses basketball as a tool to provide necessary skills to succeed in higher education.
When asked why basketball, as opposed to other sports is able to have such an impact for kids in this area, Travis explains it is because of accessibility: “You can pick up and play anywhere and you can even make your own hoop. It’s everywhere.” Playing a game does not require any shared language.
In India, Travis explained that basketball is seen as separate from education, and in general, a revenue-generating activity. In the US, in contrast, sports are seen as going hand-in-hand with educational opportunities, and Travis’s experience at Harvard serves as an example of what basketball can provide. Crossover tries to present the youth in India with an alternative way to approach sports.
In Travis’ experience, the children at the school were extremely enthusiastic to learn more about both basketball and life skills. Some walked for miles each day to attend the camp, and he says that although some of the children did not even have shoes, they were still extremely enthusiastic about playing.
“If I can give them an idea of what basketball can do for them, it might spark their interest, and they might pass that to the next person,” he says. “They were so eager to learn everything.”
Moving forward, Travis and Jayachandran hope to continue growing the organization and possibly start a more formal partnership at Harvard.
The Harvard University South Asia Institute collaborated with the World Bank and the Government of India’s Department of Public Enterprise to organize a four-day Executive Development Program titled “Non-State Players in Human Development – Achieving India’s Goals” The workshop took place at the Harvard Business School Classroom (a replica of a Harvard University campus classroom) at the Taj Land End Hotel in Mumbai, India.
From February 3rd to February 6th, 2014, the workshop was conducted by Harvard Professors V. Kasturi ‘Kash’ Rangan, the Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing at the Harvard Business School, Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Harvard South Asia Institute, and Ashish Nanda, Robert Braucher Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School, currently serving as Director at IIM Ahmedabad, his alma mater. Assisting with the program was Shashank Shah, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Management Studies. The 47 participants were mainly top-level managers and executives from the large and medium-sized Indian public sector corporations, and some private sector companies. In India, public sector units have a great potential to effect social change due to their size and reach.
In view of the legislation on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India, the main objective of the program was to strengthen the capacity of a cadre of senior managers of corporations. Through the case study approach, best practices and strategies in CSR development were highlighted. The workshop was modelled after the highly successful Strategic CSR executive education program developed at the Harvard Business School. It includes case study sessions, sharing of ideas, experience and opinions via discussion groups and opportunities to recap and reflect on the learning.
The 12 cases studied were from across the globe – examples of best practices, as in the case of Charles Veillon, S.A., a Swiss mail order and retail company, and the highly evolved business philosophy of India’s home grown Jain Irrigation Systems Limited, as well as cases showing instances of business failure and collapse due to the complete lack of social responsibility as demonstrated in Bolivia’s Cochabamba Water case and the case of India’s Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. Questions on personal ethics and leadership were brought to the fore through the Harvard classic – ‘Parable of the Sadhu.’
The best-of-Harvard faculty included Kash, Tarun and Ashish, who are all leaders in their field. They brought their brilliant, complementary and inimitable teaching styles to the table – testing, tweaking and cajoling the interest and enthusiasm of seasoned corporate bosses.
The main takeaway from the workshop was that a strategically planned and managed socially and environmentally responsible code of ethics by corporates, not only results in increased profits, but will also sustain the business in the long term. Such a code of ethics should be embedded in corporate policy and should be followed in letter and in spirit. Several suggestions to facilitate true CSR ensued.
Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School was interviewed by Live Mint/Wall Street Journal about the role of corporate social responsibility in Indian companies. Khanna says that Indian state-run companies are much better placed to implement meaningful programmes of corporate social responsibility (CSR) than their private sector counterparts, owing to the large scale on which they operate and their accessibility to the government.
Khanna is currently in Mumbai for the the Executive Development Program titled “Non-State Players in Human Development – Achieving India’s Goals” that SAI sponsored with the World Bank.
In this rapidly changing world, a world-class transformational education experience is what today’s youth aspires to obtain. Excellence in teaching and research standards and holistic learning for societal improvement is the endeavour of all leading universities. Three eminent Harvard University faculty members presented their views on ‘Building World-Class Education: What Lessons Does Harvard Offer?’
The talk, interactive session and reception were held in Mumbai, India on January 16, 2014, hosted by the Harvard Club of Mumbai, the Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI), the Harvard Business School India Research Center, and the Harvard Alumni Association.
The Faculty included Jorge Domínguez, Vice Provost for International Affairs at Harvard University and Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico; Jacqueline Bhabha, Director of Research, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; the Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School; Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; and Ashish Nanda, Robert Braucher Professor of Practice, Faculty Director of Executive Education, and Research Director at the Program on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School; Director, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Speaking to an audience of mostly Harvard alumni and senior Indian educators, Vice Provost Jorge Dominguez started the conversation to talk first about Harvard’s mistakes – in his opinion, to be truly a world-class institution, the institution would have to be free from the folly of dogmatism, arrogance and labour market protectionism; student bodies should have universal representation, and in general adopt a more inclusive approach. His vision for Harvard is to be a truly public university, open to all, with excellence as the only criteria, accessible to all with varied locations and in many parts of the world.
Ashish Nanda cited his personal and matchless Harvard experience first at the Business School and then at the Law School. This world-class experience instilled a sense of autonomy, of stretch – a desire to excel, and a sense of connectedness, of community, of growth through knowledge and empathy.
Jacqueline Bhabha talked of how diversity within the institution could promote excellence in the product. The institution, to be world class, should lead by example, to make the world a better place for diverse groups with tolerance for and freedom of speech for each one. Opportunity and equality without bias for all – student groups and faculty, with equal reward for excellence, both in teaching and in research.
Dialogues such as these will continue to contribute to achieving excellence, as real-life learning can provide many lessons.
Watch a full video of the event here:
On November 25, 2013, SAI hosted a webinar titled “Tackling Gender Based Violence in South Asia – What Options Do We Have?” as part of SAI’s ongoing webinar series. The interactive discussion featured sites across Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. To make the webinar interactive across the globe, SAI utilized social media to take questions and monitor the discussion online.
The event was made possible using live conference technology with the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan, which allowed the various sites to participate in the discussion live and ask questions during the event. The participating sites included universities in Pakistan, including in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Multan, as well as centers in Pune, India and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Each site had around 20 students watching live and asking questions. The event was also streamed live on SAI’s website.
The faculty speaker was Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, FXB Director of Research, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. After an introduction by Meena Hewett, Executive Director of SAI, Professor Bhabha gave a presentation about the issue of gender violence, and possible paths to prevention.
Professor Bhabha touched on several methods of prevention, including better police training, which also means an increase in accountability of elected officials. “For many women, this is a form of domestic terrorism,” Professor Bhabha said. There needs to be a shift in attitude about how sexual violence perpetrators are viewed, including increased impunity for offenders. She also advocated for increased protection for survivors, including support, rehabilitation, and a recognition of the effect on mental health. Medical workers must be better trained to recognize signs of domestic violence.
Professor Bhabha gave the example of an Indian journalist at Tehelka, who was recently accused of sexual harassment but claims to have done nothing wrong. This is an example of the social norms that govern societies in South Asia. As a political society, Professor Bhabha said it is also on the responsibility of everyone to try to change these norms.
In order to prevent gender-based violence, social norms must change. Professor Bhabha explained that gender norms have become skewed over the century. For example, many boys in South Asia grow up with a sense of entitlement that is learned from school, movies and on the street. The burden does not fall on one particular group or sector; rather society as a whole is to blame. Professor Bhabha also addressed the education system, which is not truly coeducational. She said that from a young age, many girls live in discreet gender worlds, which makes it hard to become familiar with normal social exchanges. It is vital that both girls and boys form normal friendships at a young age with the opposite gender and develop a sense of normalcy.
Professor Bhaba also discussed another troubling norm in South Asia: the apprehension to talk about sexual and reproduction issues, even among close family members. Discussing sexual health is seen as illicit. Sexual violence should not be seen as “a private shame, a guilty secret for the woman.” Access to contraception was also discussed, which Professor Bhaba described as an important right for a woman to be able to control her own fertility.
The gender hierarchy also plays a factor in social norms around gender violence. From a young age in the home, boys are encouraged to play and do homework, while girls spend their time working in the home. This is especially true in rural communities. Many boys are also influenced by peer-group pressure, which can result in boys becoming violent who would have not have otherwise participated. To combat this norm, Professor Bhaba explained that it is important to “make it cool to be kind, not to be aggressive,” and incentivize good behavior by making it the cool thing to do.
Going forward, Professor Bhaba shared several other strategies. She explained that the media can be an important ally when used correctly. For example, changing the dynamics of popular soap operas, telenovelas, in Latin America was seen as an effective way to reduce violence against women in that society. The development of new adolescent curriculum is vital, which is already underway in some areas. Professor Bhaba explained that groups of women organizing through activism can be very powerful.
Overall, Professor Bhaba explained that change must come from within communities, not from top-down. This is why many of the policies related to gender violence has failed to change the situation. Women, as well as men in communities, must work to change these social norms. Social and economic conditions that contribute to poverty must also be addressed in order to truly combat gender violence.
This issue, which has been making headlines around the world recently, is an important one for South Asia. This webinar helped to promote further discussion about prevention methods and showed that there are many people across South Asia who want to tackle this issue and promote change.
Mariam Chughtai, doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and SAI intern, moderated the discussion. Erum Sattar, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School and SAI intern tracked the discussion on social media.
Blakeman Allen, who is the director of Pakistani Educational Leadership Project at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire wrote to SAI, saying, “Thanks again to SAI for providing more opportunities that address changes in societal norms. With the project encompassing 238 alumni change agents, and focusing on grassroots mobilization through educational leadership – and with over 75% of the alumni female leaders – the webinar resonated. And the Pakistan real-time inclusion was wonderful, too.”
SAI will host more interactive webinars in the spring semester of 2014. Please check SAI’s website for future updates.
The Indian economy has been teetering on the brink for the past few months. The most manifest of these problems has been the crash of the Indian rupee, which has shown a decline of approximately 20% against the US dollar in a short period of time. Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute at Harvard University and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, offers some insights into the causes and conditions at play.
Zeenat Potia: Can you give some context around the downturn of the Indian economy and how it applies to other emerging markets?
Tarun Khanna: First of all, I’ll say that this isn’t a crisis, but a significant correction. It’s the result of a general reduction in confidence in the Indian economy and, in turn, has fed further angst. The fall of the rupee comes at a time of corrections to other emerging market currencies such as the Indonesian rupiah and the Brazilian real. A common cause of these price movements is shifts, or expected shifts, in US monetary policy. The United States is still the big gorilla in the global currency field, and when policies are tightened at home, resulting in the dramatic withdrawal of money from emerging economies, the smaller economies pay the price. The problem is exacerbated by continuing structural weaknesses in developing countries where foreign investments are not necessarily anchored in long-term commitments to infrastructure or projects that require physical plant equipment, but often are more portfolio-like in nature and somewhat footloose and fancy-free.
ZP: What are some of the causes of the decline that are specific to India?
TK: Due to large-scale economic liberalization since 1991, India has had a nice long run of reforms that drove increased investment, both by local entities and foreign investors, but when times are good, people tend to assume that they are everlasting. Sadly, reality isn’t so compliant. During flush times, people borrowed excessively beyond their capacity to repay their debts, which is a common cause of corrections in emerging markets. Now under sobering conditions, people are scrambling and realizing that it’s tough to refinance their debts. For instance, a landlord of an apartment building in Bangalore has a short -term loan in dollars that is being serviced or paid for in rupee receivables. In other words, the landlord still gets the same rent in rupees from his tenants, but that money just became 20% more expensive in the global currency market. So what is she to do? The options aren’t appealing: Default on the loan or change the business model by possible refinancing. As you can see from this example, the current Indian economic crash has real microeconomic consequences causing consternation for companies, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
ZP:Do you think the Indian political climate has contributed to the current economic situation?
TK: Absolutely. India has, sadly, become notorious for policy paralysis. Laws are often tabled in Parliament, and they get pushed from session to session, despite their urgency. There is a rampant lack of clarity and leadership from the major political parties. The main opposition party, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), recently announced Narendra Modi as their candidate for Prime Minister. The party currently in power, Congress, in the form of the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, does not have a clear successor PM-candidate. Parties are preoccupied with their own internal affairs and not attending to the business of governing – a state of affairs that surely deters serious longer-term investors.
ZP:Are you saying that China would be a better choice for that?
TK: There is a biblical saying that advises one to use a period of feast to prepare for a famine. In the Indian context, if, as was the case in China, adequate investment had been put into roads, bridges, and power plants, I suspect that a much larger fraction of the money coming into India would have been productively deployed into longer-term fixed assets, securing it against the volatility of global currency markets, particularly the tightening supply of the US dollar. India’s economy still has many strengths compared to China, especially thriving entrepreneurship at the grass-roots level, but it’s been sadly overshadowed by the less-than-sterling performance of the state, to put it mildly.
ZP: On a different note, any thoughts on the rising price of onions in India?
TK: This is very bad news for the incumbent government, since the price of onions is a harbinger of electoral distress. It is a bellwether consumer price in India, given its status as a consumer staple, and it indicates potential economic distress for the common man and woman. The Indian government recently passed a massive food security bill, which is an attempt to provide subsidized food to the poorest of the poor and to raise their level of welfare. Nobody can disagree with the need to alleviate the suffering of the hungriest, but the issue in India is that the mechanisms to distribute food to the most vulnerable people are inept and corrupt. The most charitable estimate I’ve seen is that for every rupee of subsidized food, sixty-five paisa doesn’t reach the intended recipient, and the least charitable estimate is that eighty-five paisa goes awry. This speaks to a very large leaky pipe, into which the government is pouring more resources in the futile hope that the pipe repairs itself. The fear is that this is an election sop, before next year’s national elections, in order to boost ratings. If so, it would be a poor use of resources compared to using funds to repair the broken infrastructure. Since sizeable commitments of this sort can further exacerbate the fiscal deficit, already high, it can worsen an already weak fiscal situation. As Indians say, we’re on a sticky wicket, to use a cricket analogy.
Updates from the Radcliffe University Workshop on August 29 and 30, 2013
By Lisa Chase, Research Associate, Harvard Business School & Harvard Graduate School of Design
The spirit of collaboration and community that made this year’s Kumbh Mela festival so successful was on vivid display at the Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral City workshop August 29 and 30 at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. This gathering of government officials from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh responsible for planning and managing the Kumbh Mela, faculty and students from FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard Divinity School (HDS), Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and School of Public Health (HSPH) ; Harvard Business School (HBS); the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) and Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), epitomized the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration and academic curiosity that inspired the HGHI and SAI to sponsor the workshop. Representatives from Uttar Pradesh included Higher Education Secretary Devesh Chaturvedi, Professor and Head of the Department of Community Education Shraddha Dwivedi, Mani Prasad Mishra, District Magistrate and Mela Chief Officer, and Deputy Inspector General of Police Rajesh Rathore. Mela Inspector General, Alok Sharma, joined the team from India via Skype.
The Kumbh Mela workshop commenced with a discussion, led by Professor Diana Eck, HDS, FAS, on the governance and religious aspects of the festival, including the inclusive nature of the event, which included ethnic and religious groups from across India, Asia, Europe and beyond. Professor Eck invited the administrators responsible for planning and executing the Kumbh Mela to contribute their insights into the intricate process of accommodating more than 32 Hindu sects, “tourists” of various faiths drawn to the festival, and the political considerations of allocating space for and catering to the unique needs of influential religious groups, including the Akharas. The workshop progressed to the practicalities of acquiring almost two thousand hectares of land from the Indian military, farmers and the railway department to accommodate the approximately 80-100 million pilgrims over the course of the 55 day festival. GSD Professor Rahul Mehrotra and Uttar Pradesh officials explored the considerations of apportioning parcels for the diverse array of Kumbh Mela pilgrims, including fielding and screening applications to determine the credibility of their spiritual – as opposed to speculative real estate – interests, assigning parcels with an eye to their proximity to the primary bathing areas, while encouraging connections between geographic regions, ethnic and religious groups.
Following lunch, HBS Senior Lecturer John Macomber led a discussion on the infrastructure implications, including the environmental impacts, of the Kumbh Mela. Macomber queried the administrators about the process of laying out the roadways, electrical, sewage and water infrastructure over the grid of the Kumbh Mela landscape. The exchange revealed the complexities of designing and constructing a temporary settlement that draws on a legacy of British urban planning and accommodates the variable environment imposed by shifting water levels and dry land, with the Central and State governments taking responsibility for the macro level infrastructure and leaving the details “inside the tent” to private sector and civil society organizations. A discussion of organizational structure and economy was led by Director of SAI and HBS Professor Tarun Khanna and Assistant Professor J.P. Onnela of the HSPH, focused on their cell phone data study of mobile phone text and voice messages from the Kumbh Mela, and the relationship of these communications to human social behavior. The applications of the data, and what it reveals about human communication patterns and networks, are myriad, including enabling epidemiologists to study disease vectors in new ways, planners to design transportation improvements, and environmentalists to examine human impacts. HSPH Professor Jennifer Leaning and Research Fellow Satchit Balsari closed out the day’s panel discussions with an examination of the numerous public health considerations, including ensuring access to safe drinking water and toilet facilities, providing healthcare and hospital services, planning crowd control and security, and protecting against the spread of infectious diseases. Professor Leaning highlighted the success of the health clinics and public health infrastructure in caring for the Kumbh Mela pilgrims, and the lessons the administrators and government officials may apply to healthcare delivery for the general population outside of the festival.
The workshop’s second day focused on spatializing and mapping both the planning and construction processes of the Kumbh Mela and the deconstruction and “disposal” phases of the event. Under the Kumbh Mela administrators’ direction and led by Felipe Vera from the GSD, faculty and students laid out every facet of the infrastructure planning, design and construction, along with management and governance functions, on physical site plans and drawings constructed by the GSD students. Mapping included documenting the sequence of architecting the land’s grid layout, planning roadways and transportation, engineering electrical delivery and water access, and framing the chain of governance and oversight. The mapping exercise underscored the administrators’ deliberate and detailed approach to framing every facet of the Kumbh Mela, guided by the primary goal of ensuring a safe and satisfactory spiritual experience for every pilgrim, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Following the mapping activity, Namita Dharia, a Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s Department of Anthropology, framed a discussion about the almost monumental task of deconstructing the Kumbh Mela’s temporary city, including reclaiming and reusing construction materials, taking down electrical and lighting systems, removing sanitation systems and toilets, and dismantling temporary bridges and girders. The deconstruction process was rendered more complex because of the various agencies and officials responsible for respective infrastructure components, including private contractors and a diverse range of employees and volunteer labor.
During the workshop’s concluding discussions, Harvard faculty invited the Kumbh Mela administrators to share anecdotes and “lessons learned” from the festival’s planning, execution and deconstruction. Perhaps one of the most striking takeaways was the success of the central and state governments’ public service campaign urging pilgrims to follow safe hygiene, sanitation and security practices, including environmental conservation and protection. The effectiveness of the public relations scheme was evidenced by the absence of any major communicable or water-borne illnesses at the Kumbh Mela, while environmental damage from plastic trash and water pollution was significantly reduced from previous festivals. At the workshop’s close, Harvard faculty and Uttar Pradesh administrators discussed the potential for a continuing collaboration between Harvard faculty and Kumbh Mela administrators. The partnership would enable Harvard faculty and researchers to continue studying and learning from Uttar Pradesh officials and their festival management, while potentially advising administrators on how to refine aspects of the Kumbh Mela and associated religious celebrations and extrapolate their infrastructure planning to the wider Indian population. As Diana Eck described it, the Kumbh Mela process is never finished, but continues as an iconic story of spirituality and community, of which Harvard University hopes to be an ongoing participant.
The Harvard Alumni Association will offer several upcoming trips to South Asia:
India’s Pushkar Camel Fair, November 9-19, 2013
Join HBS alumni and friends on an enchanting 11-day tour of India, and discover the wonders of one of the oldest and most diverse civilizations in the world as you visit awe-inspiring monuments, explore bustling cities, and get lost in local villages and markets.
India’s Holy River Ganges on Bengal Ganga, January 1-17, 2014
Faculty Leader: Diana Eck
During a nine-day riverboat journey from Kolkata to Simaria, enjoy a panoply of Muslim and colonial-era architecture, Hindu culture, Buddhist temples, the daily rituals of village life, and beautiful, unspoiled countryside. Visit metal craftsmen at work in the village of Matiari, ancient centers of learning at Bateshwarsthan and Nalanda, a sanctuary for the endangered Ganges river dolphin, and the “Bodhi Tree,” where Gautama first attained enlightenment to become Buddha. End in Varanasi, India’s oldest city and a religious center for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
South India: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka & Kerala, March 6-22, 2014
Faculty Leader: Sugata Bose
With over 2,000 years of cultural history, India’s far south has the reputation of being the most “Indian” part of the country. Begin in Chennai, the thriving capital city of Tamil Nadu. Witness the ancient art of silk weaving in Kanchipuram, one of India’s seven sacred cities. Cross over to Bangalore, the center of India’s software revolution and a hub for contemporary art. Spend time in Kabini at a jungle resort exploring the wildlife and flora of this area. Drive through the country-side to Mysore to see some fine examples of art and architecture. Fly to Kochi (Cochin) to conclude in Kerala, a region of backwaters, spice gardens, paddy fields, and beaches; and where churches and synagogues mingle with temples and mosques.
Exploring Myanmar: The Land of the Golden Pagoda, March 10-23, 2014
Faculty Leader: Peter Bol
A treasure trove of cultural wonders undiscovered by the tour-bus crowd awaits exploration. Tribes nearly untouched by outside influence populate the hills, stunning empty beaches lie in anticipation of discovery, and the tinkling of temple bells evokes the ambiance of an earlier age. Indeed, you may hardly believe that such a world exists outside the works of Kipling.
Ladakh to Bhutan, September 13-27, 2014
Faculty Leader: To Be Announced
Ladakh, the hill station of Jammu and Kashmir State, conjures up images of Tibetan monasteries and snow capped mountains. The main residents are Tibetan tribes and the religion is predominately Buddhist. Explore many of the gompas or monasteries situated in the mountains around Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The monasteries are a treasure house of Buddhist art with richly decorated thankas, scrolls, wall paintings and statues. After visiting Ladakh, continue the adventure with eight days in Bhutan, a country that strictly limits the number of visitors allowed each year. Hike to the sacred Taktsang Monastery, watch classic Bhutanese folk dances, and explore the National Museum in Paro.
On July 26, Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity by the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, at its graduation ceremonies in London. She was introduced to the Faculty and students by Professor Gurharpal Singh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Professor in Inter-Religious Relations and Development. Her citation commended both her work on India and on the South Asian diaspora communities of America, especially the Pluralism Project and its focus on the challenges of religious diversity.
In her address to the graduates, Professor Eck spoke about her own time at SOAS as a Fulbright scholar and a master’s degree student in the 1960s, recalling especially the life of the Common Room, with students from all over Asia, from the Middle East and Africa. She noted how much the world has changed in the decades since then, with the revolutions in communication and all that is signaled by “globalization.” In these years, SOAS has also grown into one of the premier centers in the world for the study of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
“But over these years, some things have hardly changed at all. Deep differences –economic, political, and religious—continue to fracture and divide the world, locally and globally. We understand one another too little. The globalization of our conscience and consciousness is still underdeveloped. Our ignorance and prejudice circle the globe along with our credit card numbers and our greenhouse gases.”
“It is this,” she said, “that makes your work as SOAS graduates essential to the world we live in today and more urgent than ever before. Diversity is just a fact, but pluralism is a creation. It is the achievement of a place like SOAS. It is forged by the engagement across differences of cultures and continents that you have found here; it is forged by the energies on display in the SOAS Common Room, by the relationships you have made, and by the intellectual strengths you have found here. In the world in which we all live today, you are lucky to be graduates of this place. Negotiating difference, creating the infrastructure of pluralism, is both a global and local challenge. It is your challenge as citizens of a fast-changing interdependent and complex world.
It’s not too early to think about what you’ll be doing over Winter Session. Consider applying for a SAI winter grant. Deadline: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Application details: http://southasiainstitute.harvard.edu/winter/
The South Asia Institute has held several alumni events this summer, connecting alums with current and incoming students and faculty in Dhaka, Delhi, Karachi, and Lahore. A snapshot of the events are below. Visit our Facebook page to see photos from the various locations.
Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan
While in India, SAI Executive Director, Meena Sonea Hewett, had the opportunity to visit Landour Language School in Mussoorie, where two Harvard students are currently studying Hindi. To reach the school, one must take an overnight train from Delhi to Dehradun, and an hour car ride to reach Landour.
Alicia Harley, PhD Candidate at Harvard Kennedy School, came to Landour to bolster her field research skills as part of her dissertation on innovation and technology adoption among small holder farmers. “Even though I generally have a translator accompanying me, a basic understanding of Hindi will allow me to know if the translator is off track or if there are nuances to the discussion I want to explore based on the emphasis the farmers put on different answers,” Alicia remarked.
Rebecca Zaman, Harvard Law School 2013 grad, is studying Hindi to better communicate with the South Asian side of her family. Her grandfather is an Urdu speaker from Hyderabad. Alicia and Rebecca noted that studying in the mountains at Landour was a great experience, with classes for four hours each day, and the rest of the time open to writing, reading, and hanging out with other students who come from all over the word. Meena also met with the principal of the school who has been running the program for the past thirty years and five other students from Brown University, one from Johns Hopkins and another from Wesleyan who are all in India for a study abroad program. Read the full interview with Rebecca and Alicia below.
Q: What brings you to Landour?
A: (Alicia) I am conducting field research in Bihar, India, for my dissertation on innovation and technology adoption among small holder farmers. I am specifically interested in technologies that promote livelihood security for poor and marginal farmers. I will spend a lot of time speaking with the farmers while conducting the research for this project. Even though I generally have a translator accompanying me, a basic understanding of Hindi will allow me to know if the translator is off track or if there are nuances to the discussion I want to explore based on the emphasis the farmers put on different answers etc.
(Rebecca) My grandfather is an Urdu speaker from Hyderabad and I am here to learn Hindustani so I can better communicate with the South Asian part of my family. A friend at Harvard recommended the Landour Language School. Landour is a great place to begin your time in India. The pace of life here eases you into India as opposed to going straight into travelling or doing fieldwork.
(Both): Landour was one of the better language schools in India, and is in a beautiful setting that is calm and safe. You receive one-one instructions by instructors who are patient and funny.
We have four hours of classes each day so the rest of the time is available for writing, reading, hiking, and hanging out with other students who are here from other parts of the world to study language.
Q: What would you say to other students interested in coming to India?
A: If you want to be in India for any length of time, taking a short course in the language makes it easy to get around and you are more confident traveling and meeting people. The language program can be any length of time but [we recommend] a minimum is two weeks to get some benefit from it. What you learn in four weeks is sufficient to make you be understood when communicating with people and to get around.
Once you have the basic grammar, it is easy to pick up the language and the classes serve as a building block for developing the language further. The languages offered are Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Garhwali.
Q: What would you say to students interested in coming to Landour, Mussoorie?
- Bring your hiking clothes.
- Landour language school is a bubble but it is an experience of India.
- The school is friendly and incredibly nice. Teachers are responsive to how you want to learn. The school unfortunately does not have much information on the web.
- The student body is diverse and they are all there to learn the language.
- It is easy to make friends and you do not get lonely.
- It is important to keep a weekly journal otherwise you could forget the subtle experiences of everyday living in the mountains.
- If it is your first time in India it is an easy place as it is safe, and not too crowded.
Meena also met with the principal of the school who has been running the program for the past thirty years and five other students from Brown University, one from Johns Hopkins and another from Wesleyan who are all in India for a study abroad program.
The South Asia Institute offered an Immersion Program for SAI grant recipients to get an in-depth look into organizations and NGOs in and around Delhi from July 17 through July 21. The opportunity also allowed students to meet with Harvard alumni as well as other grant recipients.17 Harvard students participated in the program, coming to Delhi from their internships and research sites in Bangalore, Jaipur, Pune, and Gujarat.
A snapshot of the program is below. Find more pictures of the program on our Facebook page.
Today was the first day of the SAI’s first Immersion program – 17 Harvard students have congregated for a chance to get an in-depth look into organizations around Delhi.
For our first visit, we went to Kegg Farms, one of the oldest poultry breeding organizations in India. There we met with Vinod Kapur, Chairman of Kegg Farms, which is best known for its pioneering of genetically breed ‘Kuroilers,’ a type of chicken that will survive in village conditions and produce more eggs than the typical chicken. Kegg Farms sells the Kuroilers to villagers who then make their livelihoods with chickens that will live longer and produce more eggs in their lifetime. They currently serve over a million households in 17 states in India.
Kuroilers have become a tool of poverty elevation, food security, and empowerment for women. The government now uses Kegg Farms model as a major element of programs to reduce poverty in India.
Next, we visited the flagship FabIndia store. FabIndia links over 80,0000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, creating a base for skilled, sustainable rural development.
We finished the day at the One Harvard Young Harvard event, an opportunity for the students to meet alums and incoming students.
On the second day of SAI’s immersion program, we visited two educational NGOs who both provide unique ways of providing education to the bottom of the pyramid.
The first, Pratham Delhi, provides supplementary classes to school children as well as adult education classes in hub centers across Delhi. We visited two centers in East Delhi.
The hub we visited serves 150 – 200 students, and has classes for boys in the morning and for girls in the afternoon. This is because girls will attend government school in the morning, and boys will attend in the afternoon, as is the policy with the government schools.
Next, we visited Arpana Trust, which provides Montessori Style early childhood education classes for students until they are six years old. They will then go to government school, and Arpana will provide the students with supplemental classes, in addition to their regular schooling. In addition, Arpana also provides skills classes for women, in areas of beauty culture classes, vocational training, tailoring and sewing, as well as career counseling.
We met Sushma Seth, an Indian film and theater star, who directs Arpana’s theater program. Theater, Sushma says, encourages students physically, mentally, and spiritually, and allows them to blossom as human beings.
We were treated by to a few scenes from a new play that the students have written about Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman astronaut. The students inspired us with their conference on stage.
To finish the day, we had dinner at the home of Dhruv Agarwala, a 2002 graduate of HBS. Dhruv and his wife treated us to a lovely home cooked meal, and the students were able to share their experiences and impressions of India.
On the third day of SAI’s Immersion Program, the group visited Gomla, a small village in Haryana, that has been adopted by the Anant Vikas, an NGO focused on bridging the rural and urban divide. With volunteers from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, Anant Vikas has created an IT Center, an outdoor theater, a women’s wellness center, and a sports field in Gomla.
Since the adoption of Gomla by Anant Vikas, literacy rates and sex ratios have improved in the village.
The students got a taste of village life, and encountered wonderful hospitality by the local people.
Learn more about Anant Vikas here.
After spending night in Gomla, the students traveled back to Delhi for the close of the pilot SAI Immersion program, with lunch at the Delhi Golf Club. The students were invited to share their experiences and thoughts about the NGOs, companies, and village we had visited over the past few days.
“I absolutely loved the visit to Haryana. So often in Harvard, the media, or assorted publications, we hear about international development, but I feel that no amount of scholarship can ever replace the chance to see development in action. The villagers were incredibly kind; absolutely magnificent people.”
David Sheynberg, Harvard College Sophomore interning at the Public Health Foundation of India, Delhi
“I have been doing research in the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore since the beginning of June, and have been very focused on medical healthcare systems in rural and urban India, but no other aspects of India at all. Through this program, I got exposed to issues of entrepreneurial business, education, art, and bridging the rural and urban India. I felt like this allowed me to get a glimpse of different realities in India than the one I have been working on all summer. It was also meeting all the Harvard students in India this summer, hearing their stories, and understanding the work they’ve been doing.”
Richard Saliba, Harvard College Junior conducting research at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
“The fact that the program overlapped with the One Harvard Young Harvard India alumni event was very useful for me. I was able to build several contacts who are key for my thesis research process.”
Paolo Singer, Harvard College Senior conducting thesis research on India’s IT sector
“It was lovely to be able to form friendships with other SAI interns. I’ve had some great conversations over the past five days about the ups and downs of visiting a country as complex as India but ultimately seeing the enthusiasm of the upperclassmen, many of whom have continued to return to India, learn Hindi, and conduct academic research here has encouraged me to further my interest in South Asian Studies.”
Eva Harvey, Harvard College Junior interning at the Public Health Foundation of India, Delhi
“It was wonderful to compare the strategies used by Pratham and Arpana to improve the quality of childhood education, particularly focusing on the education of children who have and are still overcoming hardship. In particular, I was fascinated by Arpana’s emphasis upon including music, theater, and dance in each child’s education experience.”
Rachel Knapp, Harvard College Sophomore volunteering with children with HIV, Jaipur
“The SAI Immersion weekend showed me a side of India that I hadn’t seen in my time here. We were very warmly welcomed by all the NGOs, companies, and groups we visited. Having spent most of my time at a university in India, I didn’t get a chance to see the work that different NGOs and companies did, and they were really great in getting a more holistic view of India.”
Karen Xiao, Harvard College Junior conducting research at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
“My favorite part of the immersion program was spending time in the village and interacting with the villagers, especially the kids. I really enjoyed seeing the everyday lives of villagers as well as the dances they put on for us. Staying overnight in the village was really awesome because we were all able to sleep on one terrace. That was a great bonding time with the other Harvard students…whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
“I absolutely loved having the opportunity to meet and chat with alumni and current graduate students in India. The Harvard Club of India and SAI helped me to make contact with many people who share my interests, with whom I will undoubtedly get in touch back in the US.Visiting elementary education programs in the Delhi slums was an eye-opening and unusual opportunity to come face-to-face with the challenges children face growing up in impoverished parts of India. It also instilled a sense of hope, however, to see the great work that NGOS, like Arpana, have undertaken in this regard.”
Will Lewis, Second Year Harvard Medical School Student conducting research at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
“I really enjoyed the program. When coming to India, I had two main goals in my mind: truly and deeply learning about a new country and the culture of its nation, as well as learning about the solutions India was giving to its challenges (challenges which I also find in my own country, Brazil), and this program was really for both of my goals. It should me a different India from the one I was seeing in my internship and showed the wonderful solutions different people and institutions are offering…In Kegg Farms, I saw an idea that showed me that creating a successful business for the 90% is possible,”
Tabata de Pontes, Harvard College Sophomore interning at Mission Apollo, Pune
The Harvard South Asia Institute, along with the Harvard Club of Delhi and the Harvard India Student Group, hosted an alumni and current student networking night on Thursday, July 18 at the India International Center in Delhi.
The event brought together alumni from across Harvard’s schools, with current students in India for internships and research, as well as newly admitted students who will be joining classes at Harvard in the fall.
The evening included presentations by Pravin H. Parekh, President of the Harvard Club of India, Nora Maginn, SAI Programs Manager, Ishani Mehta, Co-President of the Harvard India Student Group and HKS student, with remarks from Namita Wahi, Former President of the Harvard India Student Group and HLS student, Ben Lamont, Harvard College Senior and SAI research grant recipient, and JN Fang, Harvard College Sophomore and SAI research grant recipient.
~The conference is the first step in sharing ideas with a group of stakeholders from the public and private sectors, the academy, service providers and NGOs~
New Delhi, 5th July 2013: The Harvard Gender Violence Project (HGVP) will host its inaugural India conference titled, “Gender Justice, Criminal Law and Curricular Reforms” on July 12-13, 2013 at the India International Centre, New Delhi.
The Harvard Gender Violence Project (HGVP) is collaboration between the Harvard South Asia Institute, Harvard Law School, the FXB Center for Health, Human Rights at Harvard and regional experts working in the area of gender violence prevention and intervention programs. The HGVP was established after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case that generated a national and international call to action to address the pervasive global problem of violence against women.
The conference focuses on three key areas: Law and Law Enforcement, Building Good Practices and Curricular Innovation. The full schedule is available at: http://southasiainstitute.harvard.edu/gender-violence-project_delhi-event/
After submitting recommendations to the Verma Committee, this project was established to create a sustained partnership with regional partners to explore effective legal, educational and social approaches to promoting gender equality. The conference will be an opportunity to learn about and share ideas on the most promising reforms and innovations.
The Chief Guests at the conference will be the members of the JS Verma Committee, Justice (Retd.) Leila Seth, Former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh, and Mr. Gopal Subramanian, Former Solicitor-General of India. The keynote address on July 12th will be delivered by Mr. Soli J. Sorabjee, Former Attorney General of India and the opening session on law and law enforcement will be chaired by Mr. Ved P. Marwah, Former Commissioner of Police, Delhi and Former Governor of Manipur, Mizoram and Jharkand. The keynote address on July 13th will be delivered by Mrs. Mamta Sharma, Chairperson, National Commission for Women.
The conference will complement the ongoing crucial work being undertaken by advocates, experts and grass roots organizations in India. In association with the meeting participants, Harvard hopes to produce a set of consensus goals for work with regional partners over a multi-year period, to contribute to concrete recommendations and inform action plans for practical implementation by policy makers, educators, and service providers.
By Amy Kalia
The students had set the tone in the first two days. Contrary to my expectations, we were not dealing with a timid group who would soak in our words without question. We were not going to get away so easily. The students have used every opportunity to ask questions, make speculations, and offer critiques of what we present to them, often starting with the phrase, “Sir, I have a doubt…” The conversations are not limited to the classroom, but rather continue during tea breaks, walks back to the guesthouse, and over meals. These enthusiastic minds never hesitate to squeeze in one more query… “How is binocular vision processed in the brain?” “Why do people who have epileptic seizures not remember what happened during the seizure?” “I think this method of measuring acuity does not account for the distortions that arise when you measure acuity the other way.” I think I speak for the rest of the teaching staff when I say that we are thrilled by this unmeasured curiosity! This is how learning is supposed to happen!
Since 2004, there have been six groups of students and teachers from Phillips Academy in Andover, MA who have participated in the Niswarth (Hindi for “non sibi” or “not for self,” Phillips’ motto) program spending up to three weeks in India. Guided by the Mahatma Gandhi¹s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, the Niswarth curriculum builds a kind of understanding that connects scholarship, community engagement, deep reflection and action.
Students have returned to Andover with a changed view of the world intellectually, emotionally and ethically. The experience helps to put their course work in a broader perspective and gives them a powerful sense of agency. Beyond PA, the program has also influenced real change in Mumbai communities with Indian schools shifting their approach to service in their local contexts. Niswarth has gained national and international acclaim for a sophisticated approach to learning about complexity, multiple perspectives as well as the need for empathy and intellectual humility when engaging with any issue within a community. Their work in schools and communities will be coordinated with organizations such as Teach for India and the Akanksha Foundation. More information about the program at: www.andover.edu/niswarth <http://www.andover.edu/niswarth> and http://niswarthprogram.wordpress.com/
Namrata Arora, the Associate Director of the SAI India office, conducted a classroom session on June 19th with the students around the Harvard Business School case study on Dharavi, titled, “Dharavi, Redeveloping Asia’s Largest Slum.” The case was published in 2009 and was co-authored by HBS Professors Lakshmi Iyer and John Macomber and Namrata Arora.
Namrata spoke to the students about slum development, stakeholder conflict and public private partnerships in infrastructure development. This is the third consecutive year where SAI has been involved with Niswarth’s efforts in India.
The Harvard-India Nutrition Initiative is a collaboration between the Harvard School of Public Health and partner institution St. Johns Research Institute in Bangalore. Read more here.