Harvard South Asia Institute
2013 Student Grant Reports Internships Research Entrepreneurship Immersion
ABBREVIATION KEY GSAS Graduate School of Arts and Sciences GSD Graduate School of Design HBS Harvard Business School HDS Harvard Divinity School HGSE Harvard Graduate School of Education HKS Harvard Kennedy School HLS Harvard Law School HMS Harvard Medical School HSPH Harvard School of Public Health SAI South Asia Institute
TABLE OF CONTENTS SAI Grants at a Glance
WINTER SESSION GRANT REPORTS Tyler Arnot Corrina Moucheraud Nicolas Roth Neil Padukone Viroopa Volla
2 3 5 7 9
SUMMER GRANT REPORTS Undergraduate Internships Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, VidyaGyan Tabata De Pontes, Mission Apollo Michael Drumm, Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative Marcelle Goggins, Taktse International School Victoria Gu, JanaCare Eva Harvey, Public Health Foundation of India Muhammad Sarib Hussain, Interactive Research and Development Shengxi Li, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Trust Corinne Maguire, Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative David Sheynberg, Public Health Foundation of India Bharath Venkatesh, Drishtee
11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 28 30
Graduate Internships Madhav Kholsa, Center for Policy Research Johanna Murphy, Aasha, Sharanam Centre for Girls Erum Sattar, Aman Foundation
33 34 36
Undergraduate Research Dipona Bandy Benjamin Lamont Ada Lin Hannah Morrill Danielle Schulkin Paolo Singer Darshali Vyas Richard Saliba Karen Xiao Matthew Yarri
38 40 41 43 45 47 49 50 53 55
Graduate Research Mou Banerjee Eric Dunipace
Adoree Durayappah T. Brandon Evans -XVWLQ)LĂ€HOG Roberto Fao Abbas Jaffer Ambika Kamath Krishna Venkata Matturi Andrew McDowell Tyler Niell Charlotte Page James Reich Benjamin Siegel Anand Vaidya William Lewis
61 62 64 65 66 68 70 72 74 76 77 79 80 81
Omidyar Grant for Entrepreneurship in South Asia GrowLanka EmpowHer Rabtt
83 86 89
South Asia Institute Immersion Program
SAI GRANTS AT A GLANCE
NUMBER OF GRANTS AWARDED BY COUNTRY
Bangladesh India Maldives Nepal
2 36 1 4
NUMBER OF GRANTS AWARDED BY SCHOOL
7 Sri Lanka 5 1 USA Pakistan
NUMBER OF GRANTS AWARDED BY TYPE
Total Students Funded: 55 Average Grant: $2,600
Total Awarded: $143,900
Entrepreneurship 10 Research
WINTER SESSION GRANT REPORTS SAI funded offered Winter Session funding for the first time in January 2013. Tyler Arnot – Harvard Graduate School of Education Economic Barriers to Secondary Education in Sri Lanka In Fall 2012, I began working with a group of HGSE students to examine the economic barriers to secondary education access for the tea plantation community of Sri Lanka. My personal area of interest was the effect of conflict on already marginalized groups. This seemed a perfect opportunity to look at one of the most vulnerable groups in a country recovering from two devastating crises: a terrible, decades-long civil war, and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami In January 2013, I traveled to Sri Lanka to add context and first-hand information to research I had collected in the fall. The purpose of the trip was to conduct interviews in the field in Sri Lanka to supplement secondary research findings. I would also meet with local and international NGOs whose experience would provide the perspective I could never hope to gain in two short weeks. The research conducted in Sri Lanka brought me to some of the most beautiful but most impoverished parts of the country. The central provinces of Sri Lanka consist of high mountains laden with steep tea plantations. The people who work the plantations are of Indian Tamil origin; brought to the island 300 years ago by the British to labor in Sri Lanka’s tea and rubber industries. Unlike their counterparts in other former British colonies, the Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka remained stateless for centuries. The effect of their disenfranchisement included limited access to primary and secondary education, as well as little contact with the outside world leading to a poor and politically marginalized population. Even through the incredible hospitality I was treated to, the evidence of this historical marginalization was starkly evident. Overcrowded line-homes shared by the workers provided ten-by-ten rooms for entire families. Most of the plantations were many miles from main roads making travel difficult and at times treacherous, particularly for children trying to reach schools. Above all, the harshly inadequate pay received by the workers perpetuated a pathology within the community that leaves thousands of children without the support network they need to pursue their education; namely, their parents. In interview after interview it was discovered that a primary obstacle to education was parents leaving the plantation to pursue higher paying jobs in the Colombo, the capital, or abroad in places like Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The results of the research conducted in Sri Lanka and here at Harvard will inform a report that will benefit the Educate Lanka Foundation (ELF), a DC-based social enterprise. ELF empowers underprivileged students in Sri Lanka to achieve the quality education that they rightfully deserve. The primary mode of accomplishing this objective is by providing financial scholarships to those needy students who show promise of academic excellence and leadership. Also, the report will benefit the Upcountry Education Development Society, an apolitical Colombo-based collaboration of Indian Tamil social entrepreneurs, that subsidizes school supplies, exam fees, and exam tutorials for children in Sri Lanka’s upcountry
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Corrina Moucheraud – Harvard School of Public Health Maternal Mortality and Health Systems in Nepal Thanks to the generosity of the South Asia Institute, I was able to travel to Nepal this winter for my dissertation research about maternal mortality and health systems. Over the past two decades, Nepal has made considerable strides in saving mother’s lives, but progress has been uneven and much remains to be achieved. My research uses a methodology called microsimulation modeling to understand this public health problem. What factors have contributed to Nepal’s progress in maternal health, and can this trajectory offer lessons to other countries in the region and elsewhere? And looking towards the future, what will further reduce maternal mortality in Nepal, particularly with an eye towards increasing equity by removing the large intra-national gaps in health outcomes? There is much that we do not know about the epidemiology of maternal mortality—because of poor record-keeping, because many deaths occur outside the health system, because social stigma mitigates against reporting—but it is estimated to be the largest contributor to disease burden for women in developing countries. We also know how to prevent an overwhelming majority of deaths that occur during childbirth, and the medical solutions exist in resource-rich settings. There have therefore been many calls to implement maternal mortality reduction strategies with proven impact. Experts agree that this requires a strong health system, but the existing models to inform such policy choices do not robustly account for health system characteristics. In my dissertation research, I am working with the Center for Health Decision Science at Harvard on new models that incorporate constructs on health systems and on health service utilization, to develop a tool that can help policymakers make difficult but crucial decisions about how best to save lives. Nepal has seen major improvements in maternal health outcomes over the past two decades. It is in fact one of the only countries worldwide that will likely meet the Millennium Development Goal to reduce its maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters before the year 2015. This is especially notable given the low utilization of skilled health workers for childbirth, an objective that Nepal will fall far short of achieving by 2015. What might therefore account for Nepal’s unique success in reducing its maternal mortality ratio? Since the 1990s, alongside this fall in maternal deaths, data show changes on related indicators, including fertility rates, women’s education, and use of contraception. It is likely that both demographic shifts and access to care have driven Nepal’s decline in maternal mortality—but can we decompose the change further and establish the relative impact of these factors? And can we examine sub-national differences in rates of change, both in possible causes of the decline and in changed mortality risk? Lastly, how can this improved understanding of Nepal’s past inform policy lessons for the future, both for other countries and to achieve further reductions in maternal mortality within Nepal? My trip to Nepal served several important research purposes. First, this research is explicitly policy focused, so it is essential to develop relationships with stakeholders in Nepal who can help translate my ultimate findings into policy recommendations. Through both its retrospective and prospective perspectives, my dissertation aims to formulate suggestions on policy and intervention approaches to reduce maternal mortality. So while in Nepal, I had many meetings with researchers, funders, policymakers and practitioners, within the government and at outside organizations. These face-to-face
meetings were invaluable to explain my research motivation and methodology (some of the technical details, in particular, are quite difficult to explain over Skype!); and to get stakeholders interested in the model and in how it might contribute to policy discussions. I also learned about data sources of which I’d been previously unaware, and which will increase the validity and reliability of my simulation model. Additionally, it can be too easy as an academic to hide behind the comforts of data and statistics! I think that it’s important to gather first-hand experience, and also to use these impressions to identify areas of intersect that are opportunities to enhance my work. To this end, I timed my trip to Nepal to coincide with a major meeting of bilateral and multilateral donors, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. This year’s meeting was particularly significant as it marks the midpoint in Nepal’s health sector strategy to meet the Millennium Development Goals and other policy objectives. It was extremely informative for me to participate in the three-day meeting, both to meet important stakeholders and to hear about Nepal’s accomplishments across the health sector and plans for moving forward. I learned about the upcoming focus on remote and socially excluded populations, and about a range of new studies on the health system in Nepal. Since the primary objective of my trip was to begin to build relationships with health sector policymakers and stakeholders, I stayed in Kathmandu, where most offices are located. But after spending so much time in meetings, I was eager to see the health system beyond offices in the capital city. So, via connections I made while on this trip, I arranged a visit to a health facility with a small birthing center. I met with the nurse-midwife there, who spoke with me about maternal health in Nepal. From this discussion and spending time at the health center, I gained important impressions about the realities of the Nepalese health system, as well as women’s utilization behaviors for antenatal care and childbirth. Since this is the first time I am working in Nepal, this type of experience is essential for me to understand the crucial nuance and intangible aspects of the health system context. To summarize, this trip to Nepal pushed my research forward in several crucial ways. By making connections with policymakers, accessing new datasets, learning about Nepal’s own sector-wide priorities, and seeing the health system first-hand, I gathered evidence that will strengthen the modeling work for my dissertation and will improve the robustness and relevance of my findings. I also began to plan a return visit to Nepal; there is interest in potentially using this model to provide evidence-based recommendations on improving maternal health outcomes for remote populations, a policy priority that has been particularly challenging to address and is now the focus of an upcoming study on which I may collaborate. Without support from the South Asia Institute, I would have been unable to make this trip to Nepal – I cannot express how much I appreciate having had this opportunity, and how much I look forward to continuing my work on this important topic and in this region. Thank you!
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Nicolas Roth – Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Trees at the Kumbh: practices and discourses of trees and tree planting from a religious and environmental perspective My goal for our stay in Varanasi and at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad was to investigate religious beliefs and practices around trees and how these intersect with the environmental and developmental initiatives championed in and around the great religious festival. Almost from the moment of our arrival, I found plenty that was relevant to this project, both expected and unexpected. Our hotel in the Assi Ghat section of Varanasi faced a row of three trees, two peepals (Ficus religiosa) and one banyan (Ficus benghalensis), each encircled by a cluster of shrines to Hanuman and various other deities. Every morning I could observe from the roof terraces of the hotel how people would come to worship at these shrines and ritually circumambulate the tree. Throughout the days we spent in Varanasi, I found many more such tree sanctums throughout the city, most centered around peepal or banyan trees. They ranged from full-fledged little temples of brick and concrete in the middle of a busy inner-city intersection to a mere splash of vermilion and a handful of marigolds at the foot of a tree literally growing out of a crumbling wall in some narrow lane. In fact, the majority of trees I saw within the city displayed at least traces of ritual practice. I also came across a small temple to Hanuman that was colonizing a section of sidewalk in the busy market area near Gondolia crossing in the heart of old Varanasi that had clearly begun as a tree shrine. Its foundational tree – which appears to have been a neem tree (Azadirachta indica) rather than one of the more usual sacred fig species peepal and banyan – was no longer alive, but its desiccated trunk still towered from the center of the enclosure. Clearly, the veneration of trees was here a cultural norm rather than an exception even if little commented upon in most scholarly work. More or less the same picture obtained with regard to trees in and around Allahabad. On our first evening there we visited the popular Bare Hanuman Mandir that stands at the edge of the mela grounds between the sand flats of the Ganges River and the city proper. Here, too, there was a large peepal tree within the temple compound, adorned not only with images of various deities but also with a large sign explaining in Hindi and Sanskrit that four major Hindu deities – Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, and Indra – have their abodes in the four quarters of a peepal tree according to the cardinal directions. Moreover, it exhorted devotees not to drive nails into such trees but to perform ritual worship for them. Yet this was just one of many venerated trees in Allahabad, the undisputed star amongst whom is the Akshayavat or “immortal banyan” found in a temple in the Allahabad Fort. Said to date from primordial times, it supposedly once sheltered Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana during their peregrinations recorded in the epic Ramayana, and according to various sources up until the times of Mughal rule Hindu devotees would attempt to commit suicide by flinging themselves from the crown of this tree into the Ganges since this was thought to guarantee immediate moksha or blissful release from the cycles of death and rebirth. The Fort is used by the Indian Army as barracks and storage space and prior to this year’s Kumbh Mela the tree – which is actually a replacement planted in the mid-20th century some time after the death of its ancient predecessor – was only accessible through prior arrangement with the authorities. Specifically for the festival, however, the Army has spruced up the temple surrounding the tree and made it freely accessible, and supposedly it is to remain so even after the end of the Mela. Our encounters with organizations active within the festival grounds were fruitful as well, both those planned and those accidental. Swami Chidananda Saraswati and his followers, organizers of the Ganga Action Parivar and initators of the Green Kumbh Movement helpful forthcoming with information, even if they were equally eager to use the interest of Harvard professors and students to publicize their campaigns. They plan to give out hundreds of thousands of tree saplings during the course of the festival, and we were witness to a small part of this when Professor Eck herself, along with various other
honorary guests, was given a small tree sapling at a kick-off event for the Green Kumbh as prasad. Even after our return to the United States, members of Swami Chidananda Saraswatiâ€™s organization have continued to supply me with further information on their tree-related activities via email, in stark contrast to prior to our visit, when all my emails went unanswered. This perhaps points to the difference that putting in a personal appearance can make. Yet even more than what I was looking for and expecting, I found much that was a surprise and all the more valuable for that very reason. There was the stall of the Horticultural and Food Sciences Research Center of the State of Uttar Pradesh that I happened upon and which was preparing to give out young guava plants (Psidium guajava), not necessarily for the sake of the environment or development, but because guavas are typical of Allahabad and consequently an appropriate souvenir. Then there were the potted plants and whole pop-up gardens that were to be found all through the encampments of the fair ground, and the nurserymen of Allahabad who appeared to be giving their plants only grudgingly for this impermanent use. Or the sadhu who, when asked about the devotional use of cut flowers and the environmental concerns associated with their disposal, explained that since they are given with love, it would be disrespectful to throw them away. They have to be put in an honorable place. What are such places? The River Ganges â€“ or a tree! Thus even in the impermanent, seemingly barren landscape of the sand flat turned fair ground, the trees are never far away, and they lead to ever new discoveries.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Neil Padukone - Kennedy School of Government Preliminary Research on the Development of the Mumbai Metro In December 2012, I went to Mumbai, India, with the kind assistance of a South Asia Institute Winter Grant, to study the development of the burgeoning metro system in that city. Though Delhi has an extensive, fully operational, and well-managed metro system, I sought to study Mumbai’s as yet inactive system due to the difference in the cities’ topographies: Delhi is a far more sparsely populated while Mumbai is extremely dense. This density poses challenges that, more than Delhi, are indicative of the development of large infrastructure projects in other megacities in India and arguably the developing world writ large. During my stay in Mumbai, I interviewed researchers, transit and urban activists in Mumbai (including EMBARQ, the Department of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, the Observer Research Foundation, and others); leaders of the state government agency that was managing the Metro system (the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, MMRDA); as well as the two key companies that were involved in its construction, development, and operations and management (Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia Transport). Employees of Veolia-Mumbai graciously gave me a tour of a representative station as well as the U-shaped depot, so shaped due to a scarcity of land. (Most depots extend after the terminus of the train line; Mumbai’s lies between the last and penultimate stations). In 2003, Mumbai planners were inspired by the recent successes of the Delhi Metro and began feasibility analyses for a new system for their city. These produced plans for upwards of 6 metro lines that would traverse the city. The highest priority line was Line One, the East-West line that connected Versova in the northwestern suburbs with Ghatkopar in the northeast (see map). The development of Line One was contracted on a Public-Private Partnership to Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), a special purpose vehicle formed between MMRDA (26% equity), Reliance Infrastructure (69% equity), and Veolia Transport (5% equity). The development would follow a BuildOperate-Transfer (BOT) model, in which Reliance Infrastructure led the construction of the elevated track, stations, terminals, and depot; upon completion of the construction, a second corporation, Metro One Operation Pvt. Ltd, with Veolia at the helm, will take over operations, maintenance, and sales activities; and after a 30 year period, the system will be returned to MMRDA for long-term operation. Yet the system’s development has been mired in challenges. Jostling between MMRDA, the state-level regional planning body, and Brihanmumbai Development Corporation (BMC), the city institution that manages local utilitieswhich are headed by two different political partiesbrought massive logistical delays: Geographic Information System maps of electricity, sewage, and water grids were unavailable, and those paper maps that did exist were not shared in a timely manner, making damages inevitable. A plethora of subcontractors without unified standards of operation resulted in accidents that delayed the project further. Perhaps most consequentially for a dense urban environment, simply acquiring the rightof-way (the physical space where the tracks and stations would be built, which often passed through existing buildings) came with years-long legal battles, the costs of delays of which were often displaced onto the subcontractors. Another consequence of the density was that the stations are extremely close to adjacent property, while a paucity of space has meant that platforms are narrower than planners
would otherwise prefer. These and other logistical, financial and political issues have postponed the development of Line Two and of Line Three, which is planned as an underground tunnel system. In spite of setbacks, the bulk of the issues afflicting Line One have been resolved and the line is set to be operational by the end of 2013. Ancillary systems and policies, including a series of Bus-Rapid Transit systems and car restriction policies for broader mobility and access, have their advocates and opponents throughout the city and country. The future of urban mass transit in India will be determined in debate halls, op-ed columns, and the purses of the Indian government. The financial, political, and managerial details of the Mumbai Metro, many of which I documented during my SAI-funded research, will be very telling and informative for the future development of these and other infrastructures. I plan to publish the bulk of my research findings, ideally after some further fieldwork, in the near future.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Viroopa Volla – Economics, 2014 Senior Thesis Research on Tribal Areas and Land Development, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa During the winter of 2013, I received funding from the Harvard South Asia Institute to conduct initial senior thesis research. As a junior at the college concentrating in economics with a focus on development in South Asia, this special opportunity significantly enabled me to scope out multiple senior thesis research topics and as a result, evaluate their possibilities of becoming successful thesis topics. In the four weeks that I was there, I traveled to rural areas in both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh to test out two hypothesis – one, the effects of foreign capital investments on land price fluctuations and two, how the tribes in these areas where land prices increased rapidly compared to the average cost of standard of living were affected. In my research prior to the trip, I had constructed a database of land prices using data available from the famous Indian magazine, Economic and Political Weekly. What I found through this data construction was that areas that had been developed for manufacturing jute, cotton, and steel mills because of their geographic proximity to major waterways were also the same places being targeted for foreign investment, making them relatively expensive to the average standard of living costs around that area. My fieldwork consisted of going to these lands and conducting interviews to get qualitative information about the increasing land prices. In Rayagada, a third tier city on the border of Orissa and Andhra, land that was going for $5,000 an acre in 2005 had skyrocketed to $30,000 an acre in the present day. The reason behind these dramatic increases was primarily because of non-resident Indians buying the land. The land was also increasing in price because of its geographic location as two distinct rivers – the Nagavali and the Vamsadhra – run through the length of the district, making the land very fertile for crop production and providing clearing waters for large manufacturing plants. The other part of my research to visit the Sora Tribe in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh allowed me to travel to tribal villages. Through a translator, I interviewed tribal families about their daily lives and their economic livelihood. From my prior research, I thought that most of these tribes primarily sold tribal arts and crafts at the local markets. I had a chance to visit five of these markets that happen every week and look at the things that they sold as well as listen to how they planned their products according to demand. What was most interesting about my fieldwork was that many of the tribes had actually stopped producing their typical tribal arts and started to sell the typical items that could be bought in the city (clothing, fish, produce) but at a cheaper cost. The few tribes that still sold tribal crafts often went straight to vendors who would purchase the items to sell them on foreign markets. The most surprising observations that I came across were the symbiotic relationships between the tribes and the land development. Even though I thought that the increasing prices would have a negative effect on the tribes, it was actually very positive. Since a lot of the land is either not developed or contains manufacturing mills, the tribes form cohorts of ten to twenty people to work on the land. They either run the mill or they farm by paying rents every month. This ensures that the land is used productively while the owners are away and the tribes can sell whatever they produce on the land for profit. In fact, the groups set up small huts on the land itself so they also have a place to live. I found this relationship to be very promising for giving the tribes opportunities to advance. From the interviews, I learned that many of the parents were supporting their sons’ and even daughters’ education with this new source of income. Although, I have visited India many times before, it was really this trip that enabled me to discover the daily happenings of these villages and tribes. Before this trip, my only recollection of these villages and markets were as a passerby, driving through the beautiful, rural landscapes to get to the city. Never, did
I once think to ask myself what was actually happening inside those small groups of huts. Going into these places and conducting the interviews was a method of discovering the details that I had seen so many times in the past coming forth to me as a new way of looking into the future.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
SUMMER GRANT REPORTS UNDERGRADUATE INTERNSHIPS The South Asia Institute has partnered with various organizations in South Asia to offer internship opportunities to Harvard students. This year, SAI funded 14 students to engage in hands-on work experience at NGOs, schools, and think tanks. Funding for these students was made possible through the Prasad Fellowship for in-region experience working with non-profit and development organizations, and co-sponsorship with institutions at Harvard, such as the Office for Career Services and the Institute for Politics Director’s Internship program. Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld – 2015, Philosophy VidyaGyan School in Uttar Pradesh, India On the first of many evening strolls, a ninth grader posed the question that would come to define my summer in India. I had just begun my internship at VidyaGyan, a leadership academy for the most promising underprivileged students of rural Uttar Pradesh. Having lured me out of the girls’ hostel with a cup of chai, the boys were showing me around campus while asking about all things American. We discussed everything from the rules of baseball to bicameral legislation, touching on health care law and the ingredients of a hot dog along the way. Two hours later, when I sent them off to dinner, a boy named Saurabh lingered behind. “Ma’am, just one more question,” he said. “Your people don’t suffer from starvation, disease, or illiteracy. So what kinds of problems do you really have?” There is an easy answer to this question that comes with a trite moral: “The rural poverty of India put my first-world problems in perspective, and made me newly grateful for all that I have.” But this just didn’t sit right with me, and what makes VidyaGyan so special is precisely that the children never settle for easy answers, either. They come to the school starving and malnourished. As students, their physical hunger is sated, but they remain ravenous for knowledge and ideas. With the students’ curiosity in mind, I designed classes that taught independent thinking and leadership skills through the lens of ethical dilemmas. Using tricky hypotheticals, I made the students practice decision-making, develop their own principles, and defend their positions in lively debates. The students, although hesitant at first, quickly adapted to the non-traditional classroom setting. By the end of the session, they were jumping out of their chairs yelling, “I object!” I played devil’s advocate for the most part, forcing the students to explore their own values instead of imposing my own. But after class, the students would hold me accountable for being slippery. They demanded to know, “would you actually kill your father to save one hundred other lives?” And, “how do you really feel about America taking out Osama bin Laden?” “The lesson [the students] taught me is that we should never settle for what we have, or focus on what we’ve already achieved… we as Americans should realize that with our prosperity comes great responsibility.”
Still, out of all these dilemmas, it was Saurabhâ€™s question that kept me awake at night. In the end, though, I realized the students themselves had revealed the answer. The journey of these children holds up a mirror to life in the United States. Delivered into a utopia of plentiful food, health care, and stellar education, the students are obviously happy and thankful. But more importantly, they feel a sense of restlessness and responsibility. With their basic needs met, they are not merely content to live in comfort. Instead, they are determined to become worthy of the opportunity they have been given. These children give back to their communities: over vacations, they teach fellow villagers how to spell and sign their own names. They set high expectations for themselves: many aspire to be Harvard students, army generals, or even prime minister. Above all, they are never satisfied by the accomplishments or knowledge they have garnered, ever striving to be better than their former selves. The lesson they taught me is that we should never settle for what we have, or focus on what weâ€™ve already achieved. The fact that we have eradicated polio does not trivialize the 32,000 gun deaths in America every year. Our 90% literacy rate does not change the fact that one in three African American males will see the inside of a prison cell in his lifetime. We may not practice female infanticide, but that doesnâ€™t reduce the outrage of sexual assault going unpunished in our military and universities. If anything, we as Americans should realize that with our prosperity comes great responsibility. It is even more incumbent on us to solve the problems that we are lucky enough to be in a position to solve. Over the course of my internship, I often thought about what Saurabh and his peers could have achieved in twenty years of life, had they been born with my resources and opportunities. The students of VidyaGyan inspired me, humbled me, and filled me with immense joy. I look forward to watching their bright futures unfold and am so grateful to the Harvard South Asia Institute for allowing me to be a small part of their journey.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Tabata de Pontes- 2016, Government Mission Apollo in Pune, India My dream is to improve the public educational system in my country, Brazil. When I was deciding what to do with my first summer break from college, I wanted something related to my goal. At the same time, I had wanted to go to India and explore this incredible country, so rich in culture as well as in contrasts, for a very long time. Therefore, I decided to apply for a summer internship grant from the South Asia Institute at Harvard (SAI), willing to combine both my curiosity about India and my passion about education. Being accepted as an intern in a company called Mission Apollo and receiving a grant from SAI, I went to Pune, Maharashtra, with three main purposes. Firstly, I was going to work with Mission Apollo in the curriculum development of its after-school science programs, sharing my knowledge about Science and the Science Olympiads. Secondly, I was going to study the Indian educational system, trying to find the solutions India was giving to the challenges both Brazil and India were facing in education. Finally, I was going to explore India and its culture, learning as much as I could about it. In the office, I got really close to my co-workers and learned from their views about education. I also learned that private companies can do a lot to education, contrary to my previous prejudices. While sharing with them what I knew about teaching Science, I got a lot from their experience. Out of the office, I met teachers, students and principals of many different schools. In these schools, I would talk to the students about my country and about how the opportunities given by education changed my life and, in exchange, they would share with me what were the struggles their schools were facing, as well as the new ideas they were finding to work. This â€œJust as I learned a lot about way, I learned that the main problems faced by India were the low education, I also learned a lot girl to boy ratio in the classrooms, the high ratio of drop outs, the about being a human being, high number of students per teacher and the fact that students and spending those two coming from a non-English speaking family were choosing to go to months in India gave me English medium schools. At the same time, I also learned that the more than any book or class Right to Education Act, the focus on extracurricular activities, and could possibly have given the research about the benefits of using tablets in the classrooms me.â€? and about different types of evaluation were solutions that were working in India and would very likely work in Brazil as well. Along with my visits to the schools, located in Pune and in small villages of Maharashtra, I also visited companies and institutions. I talked to The Times of India and to Sakaal, two major newspapers in Maharashtra, and found all their educational initiatives. I also conducted a small research about Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltda. (MKCL), a company that combines the private, the public and the social sectors and is doing an amazing job in offering courses in IT accessible for the huge majority of the population, among other things. I especially liked what MKCL is doing and had some of the most inspirational talks of my life with its CEO, Mr. Sawant. Because I have a lot to learn from MKCL and they are interested in going to Brazil, I was invited to go back to India for the next summers to work with them. I also visited IUCCA (The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics)
and had the honor of meeting Mr. Gupta, famous by his website, which teaches science through simple toys that everybody can make at home: www.arvindgupta.com. The third goal of my summer was to learn about the Indian culture and my two host families were very important in helping me to accomplish it. By sharing a room, eating on the floor and with my hands, and even watching soap operas with them, I could understand the importance of family in India. By being received so beautifully in each of the schools and by being treated as part of the family by my friends, I learned that the Indian hospitality is unmatchable. With them, I learned how to cook Indian food (trying to avoid the spices), how to say some words in Hindi and in Marathi, about Hinduism and its philosophy and also that arranged marriages can be beautiful. On the other hand, in the streets, I learned that if you give money to the little child holding an even younger one on his arms in the traffic, you are actually giving money to the leader of a huge mafia. I also learned that some people have the streets as bedrooms and bathrooms and that some women still have to cover their faces and are taught that it is just the correct thing if they are treated inferiorly and that they do not need education. And those two types of learning taught me and impacted me equally deeply. I am very grateful for the opportunity that was given to me. Just as I learned a lot about education, I also learned a lot about being a human being, and spending those two months in India gave me more than any book or class could possibly have given me.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Michael Drumm- 2015, Neurobiology Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative in Bangalore, India This summer I had the pleasure of embarking on an amazing trip to India in order to conduct research at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, a campus located in northern Bangalore. During my stay there, I became caught up in the whirlwind that is Indian daily life and was spat out 10 weeks later with a whole new repertoire of skills, perspectives, and ideas. Despite my attempts to familiarize myself with what I would encounter before flying to India, no history lessons or documentaries could prepare me for the experiences and surprises that came along the way. “Despite my attempts to familiarize My first week in India was definitely a myself with what I would encounter transition period. I went from living in a before flying to India, no history lessons or comfortable and homogenous suburb and documentaries could prepare me for the never spending more than 6 days apart from experiences and surprises that came along my twin brother other than during FOP to trying to order a pav bhaji from someone the way.” who hardly spoke more English than I spoke Hindi. I traveled all across India, riding mopeds in Goa, sleeping with camels in Jaisalmer, and clambering over the rooftops of Old Delhi. I was able to learn about all of the different customs and religions that the people I met across India revered. I discovered Indian food for the first time in my life, and learned that starting your day with dosa and sustaining it with samosa is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Importantly, I also had a great research experience at NCBS. I was taken in by the Principal Investigator Dr. M. M. Panicker, or “Panic”, and was assigned to work with a Ph.D student, Radhika Joshi, who would soon be referred to as my mom. I ended up being in charge of many wildtype and genetically modified mice throughout my time at NCBS and performed behavioral testing on them to measure their anxiety levels. I then analyzed this data to understand the effect of drugs implicated in the treatment of neurological disorders on the mice. Besides learning several various techniques in lab, I walked away with a greater appreciation for the work that is conducted in lab. Having only worked in a sleep lab beforehand, I was unfamiliar with the pitfalls that can befall research involved with animals, such as seemingly random disease outbreaks and mice’s erratic behavior. I also learned to appreciate the time and effort that is required to obtain successful results in research, as well as the inherent luck that is also a key ingredient in any lab. The other 15 some researchers in the lab immediately brought me in as one of their own, bringing me out to eat and on adventures around Bangalore. There were several other interns on campus as well, many from the “I learned that immersing myself in a U.S. and more from India, who I ended up completely different culture allowed me traveling a lot with around the rest of India. to understand more about the society that Together we also explored every corner of I live in and connect on a more personal Bangalore, mixing in strolls to a mango grove level with the shining moments as well as with bartering over a few rupees for a short the hardships of other parts of the world.” kurta in a crowded market place. One of the best things that I walked away from
India with was an increased independence and confidence. I went from being intimidated by the process of buying food in the first week to completely and spontaneously taking a 12 hour train trip with no return ticket and no planned accommodations to go explore the ruins and temples at Hampi. I grew more in the last two and a half months than I had in any similar time span. As that was my first time out of North America and my first independent travel experience, I have already begun planning my future trips to South America, East Asia, and of course, India. I learned that immersing myself in a completely different culture allowed me to understand more about the society that I live in and connect on a more personal level with the shining moments as well as the hardships of other parts of the world. I really look forward to my future career in the sciences that this summer has helped inspire, as well as my future travels on my journey to see and understand the rest of the world that SAI has helped spark.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Marcelle Goggins – 2014, Human Development Taktse International School in Sikkim, India “Country roads, take me to the place I belong.” Hearing 200 Himalayan school children sing Country Roads during one morning assembly, I felt that John Denver had written this song about Taktse International School. Of course Mr. Denver did not write the song about Taktse; the Sikkimese foothills of the Himalayas tower over the Blue Ridge Mountains he sings of, but the country roads and the sense of belonging fit Taktse to the tee. I returned to Taktse International School in Sikkim this summer both knowing what I was getting myself into and not knowing what to expect. Though my regular duties included teaching biology and chemistry to grades 6, 7, 9, and 10, I unexpectedly became the soccer team’s manager, the 1st grade boys’ paper crane making machine, the unofficial 8th grade algebra tutor, and a sudoku guru, among other things. At Taktse, you must expect that things are going to transpire in both unpredictable and serendipitous ways. One entirely unpredictable and not-so-serendipitous challenge was the science lab. A major reason that I have decided to pursue science is because of all the experiments I have been lucky enough to conduct from my first chemistry kit to my senior thesis - and I wanted to share the excitement and reward of experimentation with the students at Taktse. Experiments bring science to life, making facts in a textbook something you can see, smell, touch; in other words, something real. My eagerness to make science fun and interesting was temporarily thwarted four days after my arrival when the key to laboratory was lost for two weeks. However, after searching high and low the key was found. My co-teacher Mr. Bhaskar and I managed to bring the 6th and 7th graders to lab to look at cell slides and later I brought the 9th graders to section leaves. Bringing a chemistry laboratory to fruition proved more difficult due to expired chemicals and few safety precautions.
“My experiences at Taktse have made more reflective and introspective about education. Education is not a set of memorized facts stored away for a test; education is a lifestyle of sharing knowledge and maintaining curiosity.”
More than the experience I gained as a teacher, my time back at Taktse was a reminder of the conscientious way in which the school community conducts itself. There is a delicate balance of East and West at the school that prepares students for the world today and gives them an understanding of their culture; computer classes at school complemented with trips to a nearby monastery. The students are a new generation of people who tenaciously follow the English Premier League and ask thought-provoking questions about reincarnation. The success of Taktse has been
both difficult to maintain, but easy to pursue with the help of the dedicated community of students, teachers, and parents. My experiences at Taktse have made more reflective and introspective about education. Education is not a set of memorized facts stored away for a test; education is a lifestyle of sharing knowledge and maintaining curiosity. I hope to bring some of Taktseâ€™s zest for learning to my own education and to those around me.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Victoria Gu – 2015, Computer Science Jana Care in Bangalore, India Living and working in Bangalore this summer exposed me to a new mindset and way of life as well as the exciting technology scene in the IT capital of India. One of the highlights was visiting free clinics in rural villages, and another was attending Rails Girls Bangalore, a daylong event in which professional programmers mentored local women in small groups and taught workshops on Ruby on Rails, a web framework extremely popular among startups. I really enjoyed meeting the other women, many of whom are professional software developers, and working on programming problems alongside them. I also had a very rewarding experience throughout the summer working with a group of talented and passionate programmers and engineers during my internship at a small tech startup in Bangalore called Jana Care. “Living and working in Bangalore this summer exposed me to a new mindset and way of life as well as the exciting technology scene in the IT capital of India.”
Jana Care is working to reverse the upsurge of diabetes and obesity rates among the Indian population. Using a combination of mobile technologies and an online platform, Jana Care helps its users learn how to make healthier lifestyle choices, which can help pre-diabetics avoid developing diabetes and help diabetics adjust to the new lifestyle required to manage their disease. Up until I arrived in Bangalore, Jana Care had been collecting data on hundreds of users who had enrolled in their program, and I was the first to start doing exploratory data analytics work. The first step of exploratory data analytics is visualization. When you have a new dataset and you don’t know what exactly you’ll be looking for or what hypotheses might be worth testing, visualization helps you make sense of data and pick out interesting patterns or properties that you may want to explore further. To that end, I built two data visualization dashboards: one for Jana Care’s Android app (food:habits, can be found in the Android Play store), and the other for Jana Care’s online platform, called the Habits Program (habitsprogram.com). The first dashboard, which can be viewed at janacaredashboard.herokuapp.com, displays a global mapping of all the users of Jana Care’s Android app, clustered by region. The map by itself enables you to quickly track how far the app has spread throughout India and other parts of the world. Furthermore, clicking on a marker for a particular user will show you more demographic data and usage data that can help you picture the different types of users you may have. This will help in making important decisions about future iterations of the app. After finishing the Android app dashboard, I moved on to visualizing the data collected from Jana Care’s web platform, the Habits Program. This dataset had many more dimensions than the data from the Android app dashboard. In addition to tracking food and weight, users are also tracking physical activity, watching video lessons on making healthy lifestyle choices, interacting with each other via message boards, and messaging their assigned coaches for feedback on their progress. As I tried to figure out how to make sense of so many layers and dimensions of data at once, I got inspired from Hans Rosling, a data scientist famous for creating data visualization platforms like gapminder.org and his highly entertaining and enlightening TED talks. I decided to take his idea for visualizing 4-dimensional data and apply it to visualize users over the span of their participation in the Habits Program. The result was a
time-series visualization in which circles, representing users, convey four dimensions of data at once. The four dimensions are: daily physical activity on the x-axis, calories consumed daily on the y-axis, weight as the radius of a circle, and finally time. Additionally, users in the same “cohort” group, which can be thought of as a social group, will have the same color circle so that you can visualize trends within social groups. Next, I wanted to look beyond simply the average calories/fats/activity/weight and get into more lowerlevel data, which led me to build two other visualizations: one is a multi-bar graph that shows the breakdown of food consumption in terms of food groups, and the other is a space-filling visualization called a Treemap, which shows all the individual foods you consumed, and each food is represented by a rectangle whose size is proportional to the number of calories it contains. After synchronizing all three visualizations over time, I received feedback from an actual nutritionist in Bangalore about the clarity and ease of interpretation of the visualizations I made. She told me that normally, in nutritionist consultations in Indian hospitals, a nutritionist would glance over a long, handwritten list of items that a patient tracked. This is highly inefficient, because not only is it very hard to get a broad picture of how a patient is doing by looking at a text list, but also nutritionists have a very restricted amount of time to dedicate to each patient. I showed Geeta, one of the nutritionists whom Jana Care consults, my visualization, and it was definitely a “wow” moment for her. She especially liked the Treemap layout because it makes it much easier for her to pinpoint patterns in the user’s food habits and decide how to advise them. With her advice, I improved several aspects of the visualization and then went through several users’ data to hear her interesting thought process for deciding what advice to give to any particular user. The other Jana Care employees and doctors and nutritionists I showed the visualization to were really excited about it, because it’s a novel layout for displaying patient data, but it’s still very intuitive and visually appealing. My hope is that nutritionists who are coaches on the Habits Program platform can use this to speed up the feedback process to their patients. There are many more applications that I would’ve liked to explore if I had more time. Overall, this internship was incredibly rewarding and a great synthesis of healthcare, technology, and cultural immersion.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Eva Harvey – 2014, Harvard College Public Health Foundation of India in Delhi, India This past summer, I got the wonderful opportunity to travel to Delhi and work with the Public Health Foundation of India. Although I was based in the South Asia Network for Chronic Disease (SANCD) I was also able to work with other offices of PHFI. This meant that as an intern I had the ability to see many different areas of public health, from epidemiological data analysis on nutrition and diabetes in SANCD to disaster management projects involving the Health Systems Unit and Center for Mental Health. I was also able to attend weekly research seminars led by visiting professors and researchers. Professor Richard Cash from the Harvard School of Public Health is a visiting Professor at PHFI and supervised my main project, which involved research on disaster prevention and response with regard to floods. Professor Cash has previously worked on disaster management with regard to cyclones in Bangladesh. Just before I arrived in Delhi, there was severe flooding in the state of Uttarakhand. As there was a pilgrimage to the area at the time, thousands were killed. (The official numbers counted the dead in hundreds however, estimates put the number of dead anywhere between “Although I had spent the summer researching the 1,000 and 15,000.) I along with the policies and protocols, no amount of research can other IOP/SAI intern undertook ever replace hearing the experiences of those research on disaster management affected by disaster first hand.” policies in India generally as well as the effectiveness of the disaster response to the Uttarakhand floods in particular. Our goal was to identify gaps in resources, personnel and policy in order to improve the effectiveness of the public health response to disasters in the future. The highlight of my internship was a trip to the affected region. While there, we were able to speak with state government health officials who had been part of the control room during the initial response to the floods as well as local health officials and community leaders who were able to give us an insight into the long term needs of their communities. Although I had spent the summer researching the policies and protocols, no amount of research can ever replace hearing the experiences of those affected by disaster first hand. Unfortunately, the trip also brought home the extent to which irresponsible governance far beyond the public health sector had contributed to the disaster. It was a productive and insightful trip but it also made me doubt how effective our one report was going to be in improving the public health sector given the much greater systemic issues plaguing the Ministry of Health and the State and Central Government. The opportunity to see the realities on the ground, irrespective of whether they were instructive or sobering, was more than I had hoped for from this internship. Academic/Professional Experience Like many students here, during my first few semesters of college I thought I would pursue a career in medicine and so I considered myself pre-med. However, now it seems highly unlikely I will ever become a doctor and so, through this internship I hoped to discover other ways in which to pursue my interest in health. It was very useful to be in a public health organization where yes, there were many doctors
but there were just as many economists and social scientists. One conversation, in particular, brought home how many different disciplines and possible careers could be avenues into public health, the PHFI researcher I was working with said that, in some ways, any career whose stated aim is to improve the wellbeing of one or more members of society could be classified as a career in the field of public health. On a more practical level, after working in the South Asia Network for Chronic Disease it was very clear how important a strong background in statistics and data analysis is for public heath. These are skills I will have to continue to improve in order to further my interest in public health research. Cultural Experience Although many international researchers worked at PHFI, the majority of the staff was from India. The other intern and I lived in a home stay and the family we stayed with was unbelievably friendly and welcoming. We spent many hours conversing with various members of the household and even tried our hand at playing cricket with their son. Delhi has many museums, art galleries, theatres and concert venues and so, we made sure to take advantage of them as much as possible. I particularly enjoyed a music festival in the India International Centre, which brought many singers from different parts of India to Delhi, in order to celebrate the many different folk traditions of Indian classical music. Furthermore, Delhi contains many monuments from the time of the Mughals. Local parks will often have old ruins that are completely open and accessible to the public, making it difficult not to encounter the remnants of Delhiâ€™s history on a daily basis! â€œIn terms of careers, the most valuable realization was that there were many different avenues into public health and so my summer experience has given me the confidence to switch my concentration from a science subject to a social science.â€?
The main challenge of the trip was the safety concern. Compared to life here in Cambridge, there were much fewer women on the metro, on the streets and in public in general. It was not advisable for a woman to travel on her own, all the more so after dark. Although these precautions were necessary, at times I found it frustrating to be so hampered. Returning to Harvard This semester I am taking a class on Modern South Asian history as I felt it was crucial to get a better handle on the history of such a complex region as South Asia in order to possibly carry out more work there in the future. In terms of careers, the most valuable realization was that there were many different avenues into public health and so my summer experience has given me the confidence to switch my concentration from a science subject to a social science. Thank you Thanks to the generosity of all those here at Harvard who made the trip possible as well as everyone whom I worked with in PHFI, my internship was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and engaging experiences I had during my college years.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Muhammad Sarib Hussain- 2015, Neurobiology Interactive Research and Development in Karachi, Pakistan Few summers can be a potent mix of everything last summer was for me in Karachi: spending time at home after a long hiatus abroad, using my proficiency with Urdu and my sense of familiarity with Karachi to serve a community I cared about most. Summer 2013 was a 12week experience with Interactive Research and Development, a non-profit research group that is active in the field of public health. By partnering with a philanthropic hospital and using their own expertise with technology and networking, they have become a cornerstone in the WHO's attempts to control tuberculosis around the world. I joined IRD at a very exciting time as they prepared to launch their third TB control effort. Much of my work directly informed their plans for the project in the upcoming two years. This required dedicating a substantial portion of my summer to field work. One needs a special love for field work to be able to do it every day since the summers in Karachi are as hot as they are humid. Since TB is a disease of poverty, IRD's project revolved around working class neighborhoods of Karachi. The idea was to zero in on the main venue where most TB patients get their treatment-at the level of the primary care provider. This would allow IRD to not just improve treatment practices with respect to TB but also help improve its detection and diagnosis. Field work was eye opening. In many ways it convinced me that I had been little more than a tourist in my city before this summer. I knew conditions were bad but never knew just how bad. I am referring not to the turbulent political situation of the country-the reminders of that abound in news coverage of Pakistan. I refer here to the turbulent lives its denizens navigate on a daily basis-the lives the news never covers and perhaps won't for a long time to come. In the sprawling metropolis that is Karachi, the third largest city in the world by population, many of the city dwellers belong to the working and lower middle classes, people who have made the long â€œâ€ŚAs a budding scientist, this summer journey from home to make a living in what is the really brought home for me the very financial heart of the country. Struggling to house tangible impact that my work can have everyone, the public services have seen a downward on the lives of people whom I will trend for decades. An energy crisis that threatens the country more broadly is particularly acute in the possibly never meet.â€? slums and shanty towns where the choice between paying for utilities and paying for food is a very real one indeed. For these Karachiites every day missed from work threatens to undo whatever fragile stability their salaries bring to their lives. TB causes poverty, therefore, just as much as poverty causes TB. Throw in an unregulated private sector where most patients prefer to access treatment and the rationale behind IRD's intervention becomes clear. The biggest improvements in TB control can be affected by targeting high-volume clinics where screening suspects for TB is likely to yield the most patients. The sooner we can detect and diagnose TB and set the patient on the appropriate course of treatment the greater the likelihood of cure. This step is also crucial in preventing the spread of TB and the development of drug resistance. Only the first week can be described as a 'normal' internship-sitting at your cubicle reading research articles intended to bring you up to speed with what the group has done so far. After that, I was quickly
introduced to the work I would be doing many times over at the private clinics. Armed with a clipboard and pen, I would visit as many of the private clinics as our field hours would allow. My goal was to identify clinics with high client volumes and collect data on the diagnostic and treatment practices employed by the doctors. This, I did religiously, from week to week, so that within a month and a half we had gathered all the data on one of the three districts targeted for intervention. Towards the end of the summer, my work expanded to include the second of the three districts as well. The realization that, by the end of the internship, I had almost tripled the data set for the intervention was a particularly rewarding one. Though field work and data collection formed the bulk of my experience at IRD, the exposure was hardly limited to just that. Being able to sit in on meetings where the programmatic implementation was discussed was particularly interesting. To be able to learn what goes into a successful public health intervention firsthand from people who are quite literally experts in their field was an opportunity that I certainly could not have discovered all by myself. Moreover, as a budding scientist, this summer really brought home for me the very tangible impact that my work can have on the lives of people whom I will possibly never meet. For IRDâ€™s intervention used some of the most cutting edge diagnostic tools available in the world right now and through the help of many a funding agency made it available free of cost to the working poor of my city. The experience also diversified my idea of the ways in which I can contribute to improving the health of not just individuals but entire communities. I met a dynamic group of people working in public health from around the world-an experience that reshaped my ideas about what I could be doing either in the distant future or a few years from now. After having had a disastrous experience the summer before with an institute on campus that shall go unnamed, this summer was its polar opposite and for that I couldn't be more grateful to the South Asia Institute.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Shengxi Li – 2015, Social Studies Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust in Dhaka, Bangladesh After two hours in a stifling car, a standard everyday commute time in Dhaka, I stepped into the air conditioned paradise of the BRAC hotel lobby and checked in with the front desk for what had been described to me as more or less a communications meeting on the Rana Plaza factory collapse, a chance for all the various different players to brainstorm on the future and get on the same page. As the intern at the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) responsible for research on the Rana Plaza case and having done extensive research on comparative and international legislation on disability rights, insurance and court compensation, it seemed to make sense, in theory, that I be there. The meeting turned out to be attended by the managing officer of one of the biggest garment factories in Bangladesh who was on a first name basis with the CEO of H&M, a representative of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Employers Association (BGMEA), and a Noble Peace Prize nominee, among others, including of course, nineteen-year-old me, straight out of my second year of college, and was facilitated by the head of the International Development Law Organization, who once headed Amnesty International. Of course, there were times in my internship, the majority of the time in fact, where I was behind a desk for hours on end typing and researching like every other intern in the world. But meetings like the one described, which did not happen infrequently, were constant reminders that never failed to remind me of the awe-inspiring reality that I stood on the frontier in this country in the battle for the rule of law and of rights. Bangladesh is a Constitutional democracy. It has a plethora of laws and almost as many NGOs working to ensure enforcement of said laws. One would think that with so many NGOs, lack of personnel and resources would be the least of Bangladesh’s problems, but my presence at such influential and important meetings reveals just how reliant both my organization, BLAST, as well as Bangladesh as a whole still is on a small, English-speaking elite “While it was an undeniable pleasure to be for change and progress. The Bangladeshi able to dine with Kamal Hossain, to rub court system is completely in English; despite shoulders with Muhammad Yunus, and to be legislation now mandating all laws be passed invited to meet the first woman Speaker of in Bangla, court decisions and rulings are all the House in Bangladesh, our visits to the still written in English. However, the majority villages to see the local courts… revealed of the population does not speak English even that the kind of legal awareness and close to fluently. In fact, even graduates from enforcement that NGOs were attempting Dhaka University mumble and blush when it to engender is still very much limited to this comes to English. As a result, at the same small, exclusive, Western-educated circle to time that I worked on my main project, which the Hossains and Dr. Yunus namely Rana Plaza, and even as I took on a belonged.” second project of completing a comprehensive literature review on the state of discrimination in Bangladesh for the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission, there was always a constant stream of final pieces to edit and formalize or initial ideas to be drafted and structured being sent to my email inbox. My initial research note on the condition of women prisoners in Bangladesh became a major conference in Dhaka involving academics, prison guards and government officials on
proper conduct in regards to treatment of women prisoners. My analysis on disability rights and compensation insurance ended up becoming BLASTâ€™s talking points in an advocacy meeting with members of Parliament, post-Rana. My summary of the actors and the actions taken by said actors in the wake of the disaster became a lecture that we gave to students at Chittagong University as well as an official, international BLAST response to queries regarding the current state of the disaster response. These emails were almost always sent directly from the Executive Director, and while it was undoubtedly flattering to work so closely with the daughter of one of the drafters of the Bangladeshi Constitution and one of the most respected barristers in Bangladesh in her own right on so many pressing and pertinent issues, it was also rather overwhelming and, on some levels, worrying. For while it was an undeniable pleasure to be able to dine with Kamal Hossain, to rub shoulders with Muhammad Yunus, and to be invited to meet the first woman Speaker of the House in Bangladesh, our visits to the villages to see the local courts and mediation sessions revealed that the kind of legal awareness and enforcement that these NGOs were attempting to engender is still very much limited to this small, exclusive, Western-educated circle to which the Hossains and Dr. Yunus belonged. There is no doubt that more local people are aware that they have rights and that they have the ability to seek a third party to complain and to regain that which they were deprived. However, the process by which this happens looks much more like community counseling, with elders and even random strangers all participating to create something of a mutually agreeable if not entirely happy ending, than formal court and mediation proceedings. Hence, as far along as Bangladesh may have come, it still has quite a long way to go. And while I may not be able to accompany it for the whole of its journey, it was an absolute honor and pleasure to have been able to accompany Bangladesh on some of it, even if it was only for ten weeks, and I cannot wait to see where it ends up.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Corinne Maguire – 2015, Human Evolutionary Biology Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative in Bangalore, India
would have been able to study.
When I announced how lucky I felt to be a part of our honeybee lab, my lab-mates had a hard time taking my comment seriously considering I was in full beekeeping wear and surrounded by a mass of buzzing bees. As precarious as the situation was, however, in that moment I truly felt grateful. Before receiving the SAI grant, I had little hope of being able to work at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India this summer. Thanks to the SAI grant, I was able to join Axel Brockmann’s honeybee lab to determine neurotransmitters in the brains of an Asian honeybee species, Apis Florea—a species I never otherwise
Bangalore is considered the technology capital of India, and NCBS’s modern and impressive lab facilities live up to Bangalore’s reputation. Secluded from the chaos and clutter of the city, the NCBS campus is lined with mango trees and blooming flora—perfect for hosting the twelve honeybee colonies on campus. My responsibilities in my lab not only included wandering these lush grounds and observing the colonies, but also catching and dissecting forager bees. Forager bees are internally programmed to seek food for the colony, not for themselves— an unusually altruistic trait that was of great interest to my lab. My project’s goal was to analyze the forager bees’ brains to determine the neurotransmitters used during their search for food. Every day my wonderful mentor, Divya, and I would place sugar-water near the colonies, to which nearby forager bees would come swarming. The sugar-water would immediately pacify the bees, a transformation that Divya would affectionately describe as “milk turning a tiger into a kitten.” After catching and freezing the bees, I “In a way, Bangalore reminded me of would essentially perform brain surgery with a the colonies I loved to work with: the needle to extract the brain and send it off to be city was always buzzing and busy, analyzed. The brain analysis included extracting but the people I met were as sweet as the various neurotransmitters and classifying any honey.” them –the results at this point I have yet to receive. When I was not risking bee stings, I spent most of my time with my lab-mates and other interns from America. For lunch we would often walk down to the local neighborhood, Sahakara Nagar, to eat in Indo-Chinese restaurants. A daily shuttle would take us into the heart of Bangalore, where we explored colorful markets in Malleswaram and swerved in rickshaws down MG Road. We did not limit ourselves to Bangalore either: we rode a train up to Hampi, a World Heritage site famous for ancient ruins; we visited Mysore, home of the splendid Mysore Palace and towering Chamundi Hills; and we traveled along the coast of Goa on mopeds and elephants. It was an unparalleled experience to become acquainted with a small part of this massive country alongside some of the best people I have had the privilege of meeting. This summer, I have learned practical research skills and experience in both insect fieldwork and dissections, which has helped convince me to continue similar research in my undergraduate career and, quite possibly, beyond. I have also gained life-long friends with whom I still stay in close contact– one of my lab-mates has already invited me to come back to India for her upcoming wedding! In a way, Bangalore reminded me of the colonies I loved to work with: the city was always buzzing and busy, but the people I met were as sweet as any honey. I cannot thank SAI enough for giving me the chance to live among the bees and have one of the best summers of my life.
David Sheynberg - 2016 Public Health Foundation of India in Delhi, India This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) on an SAI Grant. My entire experience—including the flight to and from Delhi, visa fares, two-month stay in the East Patel Nagar neighborhood, food and toiletries involved in the two month stay, daily transportation to and from the offices where I worked in Hauz Khas and Vasant Kunj, and trips to Dehradun—would have not been possible save for the generosity of the SAI and Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP). As an intern for PHFI, my work consisted mainly of “Thanks to Dr. Agrawal’s mentorship, working under the direction of two different offices. I have a great sense of using computer First, I was able to work with Dr. Sutapa Agrawal at programs to understand epidemiology the South Asian Network for Chronic Disease better.” (SANCD) on an epidemiology project. My work consisted of data from the Indian Migration Study (IMS), a cross-sectional cohort study that examined different social factors and their causality with regard to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. After a week of poring through the information at hand—namely, previous research articles that the IMS data brought into being—I settled on the question of the effect of fruit and vegetable intake and CVD risk. I was able to perform a relatively complex analysis on the data using Stata computing software, and am currently in the process of working to clean up the data to get a preliminary manuscript going. Thanks to Dr. Agrawal’s mentorship, I have a great sense of using computer programs to understand epidemiology better. The second project that I worked on was with Dr. Richard Cash. Dr. Cash, a professor at Harvard School of Public Health, spends ten out of twelve months in the year in India and Bangladesh. After requesting some more contacts in the region, Nora Maginn, was kind enough to connect us with him. While Dr. Cash is known for his work in ameliorating the cholera epidemic in Bangladesh, his recent interests have brought him to the question of natural disasters and the intersection of their effects and public health. In this vein, Dr. Cash connected Eva— the other SAI sponsored intern—and I to PHFI’s effort to understand the massive floodings in Uttarakhand from the angle of public health proficiencies and deficiencies. Additionally, we had the chance to delve into work with affiliates like Dr. Mona Sharma who specialized in global mental health to work on a systems understanding of how response to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be improved. In this vein, Eva and I joined two researchers from PHFI—Dr. Rachana Parikh and Ms. Natasha D’Lima— in a trip to Dehradun, the capital of the affected state of Uttarakhand. Here and in flood prone areas nearby, we spoke with many high-ranking public health officials—both those who served as administrators and those who directly worked with people in flooded regions—to get a sense of what the larger, underlying problems were with the public health response. Several themes emerged, which Eva and I—along with the aforementioned researchers—are hoping to discuss in a forthcoming report on the situation. Firstly, the response protocol that was outlined by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was not followed; in fact, Uttarakhand did not even have a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) that it could follow. Next, we saw the need for quick and efficient management schema to be developed. In this vein, we recommended that PHFI work with hospitals to develop emergency response checklists in the vein of the recommendations of Atul Gawande. Finally, we noticed a critical deficit between social and political will and the situation on the ground with regard South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
to the question of mental health: not only were resources missing (Uttarakhand has only one mental hospital, for example), but mental health is severely stigmatized on the ground level. These are problems that we hope will be reflected in our report. Alongside this interesting and fruitful trip, I was often kept very busy writing reports and briefings for Kavita Narayan. Kavita works right alongside Dr. Cash, and often needed information for large scale reports she was releasing, press interviews, and related publications and media events. In this vein, I researched topics spanning the range from tort reform to characteristics of flash floods to help develop a critical and thorough understanding of policy in moments of critical decision-making import. I had the summer of a lifetime thanks to SAI, and I could not be more thankfulâ€”especially to Nora, whose help in moments when times were challenging was instrumental! I look forward to continuing work in South Asia thanks to the seeds that were planted in this amazing first experience.
Bharath Venkatesh- Social Studies, 2016 Drishtee in Noida, India This summer, I did consulting work for the NGO arm of Drishtee, a social enterprise focused on rural India that combats poverty by using a market-based approach involving the creation and maintenance of micro-enterprises at the lowest levels of the socioeconomic pyramid. Not only did the South Asia Institute’s funding afford me the opportunity to work on my problem-solving skills and learn a great deal about business analysis, but it also enabled me to gain a broad understanding of the development sector in South Asia while working on various projects in impoverished, rural areas unlike anything that I had experienced before. Needless to say, it was a life-changing summer, albeit one whose impact on me is something that I am still far from fully ascertaining. I began my internship in rural Bihar, which has historically been one of the most economically and socially underdeveloped states in India. There, I spent two and a half weeks conducting field research in the remote village of Saurath near the Indo-Nepalese border in preparation for further work at Drishtee’s headquarters in Noida, near Delhi. The broad goal of my first project was to come up with a plan for creating economically selfsustainable “model villages,” and at Saurath, I gathered data on the various rural micro-community structures (both existing and upcoming) in the area that interact with Drishtee, so that I could then determine the role that they would play in any such plan of mine. These included selfhelp groups (groups of formerly unemployed housewives working together to operate various micro-enterprises), farmer clubs (cooperative societies of farmers that serve as platforms for discussing problems commonly faced by villagers), youth clubs (where youth can be educated about the issues faced by their villages), and women’s shops (businesses supplying women’s products that are run entirely by women). Drishtee, at the request of various governmental agencies and as a result of its own affinity for social good, actively enables the creation, sustenance, and improvement of such groups in places such as Saurath through the use of field operatives who help facilitate dialogue among and between villagers and other interest groups such as moneylenders and NGOs; consequently, my research for this project was focused on finding ways in which Drishtee could refine its interaction with these groups while simultaneously molding them into self-sustainable entities. I sat in on various group meetings, went to the sites of these groups’ operations, interviewed both Drishtee employees and representatives of these groups, and did my own independent research to get a sense of what improvements I could propose based on my observations. Upon going to Drishtee’s headquarters, where I spent about five and a half weeks following my village stay, I compiled and presented a comprehensive report on both my findings and my proposed improvements to the senior management staff so that they could then implement my plan in Saurath or in another village where Drishtee operates. In addition to the aforementioned project, I also spent a good part of my time in the village working on a second project that involved gathering data on Haats, periodic village markets that take place once or twice a week at a given location where vendors from numerous villages gather (upon paying a nominal fee for use of the area) to sell products on a regional level. Historically, a huge selling point of these Haats was that they were the markets where villagers could purchase more sophisticated and high-value items that would usually only be available in cities and not in their villages; over the course of the last South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
few decades, however, technological advancements have made it possible for villagers to travel to towns to procure such items by themselves, which has consequently compromised the Haat shopping experience. This has resulted in fewer profits for the village vendors who sell their products at Haats, thereby resulting in a worsening of their livelihoods as the product composition of these Haats has shifted to include more low-ticket items such as vegetables and fruits. Consequently, I conducted extensive market research on these Haats to determine how their business model could be improved so that more money could be brought back from urban areas to its rural vendors. Using my firsthand observations of Haats and surveys of both vendors and customers at these markets, I first identified various problems such as a lack of proper product segmentation (which contributes to the Haats’ very disorganized environment and worsens the shopping experience), an absence of lighting (the presence of which would prevent customers from leaving as soon as it gets dark and thus allow for additional transactions in the evening), etc.; then, I created an intervention plan that included details of various improvements that I suggested for Drishtee to implement at these Haats. For example, one of my recommendations called for Drishtee to install signage for products (while keeping in mind the increase in the Haat fee for vendors that this would entail) and organize vendors by product type, which would lead to both an improved value proposition for vendors and improved customer navigation, thereby increasing sales and improving the Haat as a whole. I presented a detailed report containing all of my observations and recommendations— “My time with Drishtee has not only resolved my along with a comprehensive cost sheet commitment to public service; it has also detailing all of the expenses that the strengthened it by convincing me of the necessity implementation of my proposed of taking a market-based approach to poverty improvements would entail—to alleviation, for such an approach is the best way Drishtee’s senior management staff so to foster economic self-sustainability.” that they could then test out my plan at a Haat where my proposed intervention could be financially feasible. Upon going to Drishtee’s headquarters, I commenced with my third project, in which I was tasked with creating comprehensive feasibility reports on six small-scale, micro-enterprises: vermicompost manufacturing and retailing, inland freshwater fishery, drip irrigation (which is not an enterprise, but rather something that could complement the others in this list), fox nut cultivation, mango cultivation, and sugarcane cultivation. These reports were designed to be given to farmers who wish to implement and refine such financially sustainable micro-enterprises on their own land in order to improve their livelihoods; as a result, I spent a great deal of time conducting extensive technical and financial research in creating these reports and the accompanying cost sheets, the combination of which summarized the benefits of the aforementioned micro-enterprises, provided directions for setting them up and maintaining them within certain physical constraints, and outlined all of the necessary financial details (the capital expenditure requirement, the operating expenses, the break-even analysis, and so on). I packaged the reports in a way that would make it very easy for a farmer unfamiliar with the subject material to learn most of what would be necessary for—at the very least—commencing with the set-up of the aforementioned micro-enterprises. My fourth and last project involved conducting a very small-scale social impact assessment of Drishtee’s microfinance operations in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, where I interviewed two loan borrowers who operated small businesses in the city. I asked them basic questions about what they felt had been the financial benefits and the subsequent social repercussions of the loans that they had borrowed, and I asked them for feedback on what Drishtee could do to improve its microfinance program. I used the stories of these two borrowers to create case studies in microfinance that Drishtee could use in the future for both internal training and other external purposes.
Over the course of my internship, I spent a great deal of time focusing solely on the intricacies of all of the work that I have outlined so far. But as clichéd as it may sound, the mundane moments that I spent simply observing the day-to-day lives and attitudes of people who live in great poverty—without attempting to study or troubleshoot their lifestyle, as I did when on official duty—is what I will remember the most from my summer. Studying and discussing poverty within academic and intellectual contexts is one thing, while experiencing it firsthand is quite another, and my internship truly made me realize how incredibly fortunate I and so many others both here at Harvard and elsewhere in the world are when compared to some of the people that I got to know over the “Not only did the South Asia Institute’s course of my time in India. My time with funding afford me the opportunity to work on Drishtee has not only resolved my my problem-solving skills and learn a great commitment to public service; it has also deal about business analysis, but it also strengthened it by convincing me of the enabled me to gain a broad understanding of necessity of taking a market-based the development sector in South Asia while approach to poverty alleviation, for such working on various projects in impoverished, an approach is the best way to foster rural areas unlike anything that I had experienced before.” economic self-sustainability in the long run. Although I have yet to see how my findings and reports will directly impact those with whom I lived and worked, my observations of Drishtee’s operations and the content of my work reinforce my belief that this organization is making a positive difference in the world, and I am certain that my work with Drishtee will be of some use in this organization’s attempts to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in India. I am immensely grateful for having the opportunity to work for Drishtee, and I thank both the South Asia Institute and my donors profusely for their funding, without which my internship would not have been a possibility.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
GRADUATE INTERNSHIP GRANT REPORTS Like the undergradaute internship grants, these grants give graduate students a chance to engage in career oriented experiences in the region, while bolstering their research back at Harvard. Support for such internship are made possible in part by the Aman Foundation, which sponsors an internship at its headquarters in Karachi. Madhav Khosla- FAS, Government Center for Policy Research in Delhi, India During the summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to intern at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, as a result of a grant from the South Asia Institute at Harvard University. My prior training is in law, and my current research is in political theory with specific interests in Indian intellectual history. Through the grant I was able to spend the summer in Delhi and explore these interests. The specific focus of my dissertation is on the “Being at the Centre for Policy Research founding of India’s Constitution. This aims to provided me institutional space in Delhi that be a project in political theory but rests enabled me to visit archives and further my heavily on archival material. Most of this research, but also allowed me to be located material is located in New Delhi, at the with a vibrant intellectual community in New National Archives and Nehru Memorial Library and Museum. Spending the summer in Delhi.” Delhi allowed me ready access to these archival materials and helped me to travel considerable distance towards my dissertation research. Being at the Centre for Policy Research provided me institutional space in Delhi that enabled me to visit archives and further my research, but also allowed me to be located with a vibrant intellectual community in New Delhi. The Centre is arguably India’s leading think-tank. It has vast resources in law, politics, and history; three areas across which my research spreads. Apart from learning from faculty members at the Centre, I was also actively involved in weekly seminars that cut across disciplines. Visiting India and spending the entire summer there, at such a vibrant intellectual center, provided excellent exposure and helped me see how certain questions involving my research could be framed more accurately in light of Indian considerations. While at the Centre for Policy Research, I was also actively involved in a project that the Centre is undertaking on Indian Constitutional Law. The Centre is currently involved with producing the Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution, with which I am associated, and the summer gave me an excellent opportunity to do considerable research on this project, its conceptualization and character. The research grant, thus, was able to facilitate a wide range of opportunities this summer; it allowed me to access invaluable archival “Visiting India and spending the entire summer there, at material and spend time at an such a vibrant intellectual center, provided excellent incredibly stimulating intellectual exposure and helped me see how certain questions hub, both of which have involving my research could be framed more accurately contributed greatly to my research and for both of which I in light of Indian considerations.” remain grateful.
Johanna Murphy- Harvard Divinity School Aasha, Sharanam Centre for Girls in Mumbai, India A crucial aspect of ministerial work is creating space for social action and change. As an aspiring minister, I hope to consistently instigate change through creating this space. This summer thanks to a grant from the South Asian Institute at Harvard University, I was able to work on creating these spaces in conjunction with Aasha. I worked with this organization for six and a half weeks working with them on their goal of providing deep enrichment support for young girls without parents or parental support in the Dharavi slum of Mumbai. I worked with Aasha to: 1.) Create curriculum for developing leadership and advocacy among young girls, 2.) Build cultural awareness through teaching and writing curriculum on the culture and history of the U.S.A., and 3.) Create a volunteer handbook for future volunteers. The Empowered Advocate Initiative: The Aasha organization provides programming for young girls from the age of six to their early twenties. For the girls who have just begun to attend College, Aasha expressed interest in creating a leadership curriculum that focused on building confidence, developing leadership skills, and creating strong advocacy skills. Aasha wished to construct a year-long curriculum that the organization could couple with their new internship program. After working with the girls and talking with the staff, I wrote “The Empowered Advocate Initiative: Curriculum for Developing Personal Leadership Skills and Wider Community Development for the Young Women at the Sharanam Center.” Along with another volunteer I ran five of the workshops with the young women leading them in writing, public speaking, confidence, and empowerment activities. After completing these first five workshops I worked to plan the next months with the other volunteer and have left the center with a year-long curriculum that includes sixteen classes. The curriculum includes various team building activities, writing, drama, and art activities, as well as outside resources and suggestions in which to couple with the classes. The subjects of the classes span from networking to women’s empowerment, from forming goals to developing communication skills. United States of America Culture and History Classes: “Through the work I completed this One of the other needs expressed by the summer I not only expanded my views organization was to have more opportunities for on the issues of young women in the the girls to be better informed about the world slums of Mumbai, but was able to gain and gain a greater global understanding of different insight on running a non-profit that countries. In an attempt to meet this need, I wrote focuses on girls and leadership out curriculum for a couple of classes and starting development.” teaching two groups of girls twice a week. Over the course of the class we not only discussed U.S. history and culture, but also standards of beauty and issues of race. Incorporating these discussions into our classes I attempted to break down some of their pre-conceived notions of Americans and engage them on talks about standards of beauty and their association with whiteness, race, and the American population. After leading the girls in four classes per week, I was able to generate a basic curriculum on U.S. history and culture for twelve classes, so they may have the curriculum on hand for future volunteers and programs. South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Volunteer Handbook: Aasha has many volunteers who visit the center and stay for varying amounts of time often teaching or offering classes for the girl’s enrichment. Though most volunteers are enthusiastic and ready to work, there is no set volunteer program causing issues in terms of the girls at the Sharanam Center getting what they need as well as the volunteers being able to have enough knowledge to use their time at Aasha wisely and efficiently. In order to help in the process of creating a more cohesive program, I compiled a volunteer handbook that not only details the program’s core information, but also offers suggestions, curriculum, and space to comment about what the students learned during that particular volunteer’s stay and what they perceive to be most needed for the next volunteer to work on. Along with this handbook I helped the organization build on their programming by connecting them to a Zumba instructor and running a trial class with the girls. The older girls from the center will now have a Zumba class scheduled for once a week. Throughout my stay with Aasha I also assisted in taking the girls to various medical appointments and classes, getting to know them through the role of being their “Didi,” or older sister. Getting to know these girls was both a privilege and an honor. Working with them and chatting with them on issues of women’s empowerment I gained tremendous insight into women’s development work. Through the work I completed this summer I not only expanded my views on the issues of young women in the slums of Mumbai, but was able to gain insight on running a non-profit that focuses on girls and leadership development. I hope to return to Aasha this January or next summer to continue to work on the development of this leadership curriculum and women advocacy work. I am immensely grateful to the SAI in allowing me to participate in bettering the programs of Aasha and to gain a more comprehensive knowledge base for the spaces of change I am building and hope to build.
Erum Sattar- Harvard Law School Aman Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan This past summer was truly incredible! I was fortunate enough to be funded by the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) for an Internship based at Aman Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan. Aman Foundation is a unique addition to Pakistan’s dynamic philanthropic landscape with an unprecedented gift by its Founding Trustee, Arif Naqvi. Aman Foundation is also a local partner for the South Asia Institute and being there for the summer on behalf of SAI enabled me to work on a range of aspects of SAI’s partnership with Aman and SAI’s work and interests more broadly across a range of institutions in Pakistan. In the first week of the internship, Meena Hewett, SAI’s Executive Director was in Pakistan and I accompanied her on her visits in Karachi and Lahore in meetings with a range of academic and partner institutions as part of SAI’s Pakistan track along with SAI’s Pakistan team (Mariam Chughtai, doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of Education and Asim Jahangir, MPA/ID, HKS-2012 now at Aman and SAI’s Pakistan Coordinator). Being able to be based in Karachi while travelling to Lahore and Islamabad to develop institutional linkages from the SAI platform was invaluable. SAI will publish its first Annual Publication this year with a thematic focus on Global Health and South Asia. The goal of the publication is to showcase innovative work from the region that will help build further collaborative research as well as highlight outcomes and learning that will lead to policy impact as well as enable entrepreneurs, philanthropists and development organizations to adopt and help fund particular innovations and health care models and interventions. I am delighted to be on the Editorial Board of the publication and was tasked with writing about Aman Ambulance (the first life-saving ambulance service equipped with emergency response equipment in Karachi) as a focus of study to feature in SAI’s first Annual Publication. Learning about Aman Ambulance, a network of 100 ambulances deployed across Karachi led me to a study of Karachi’s (a city of between 18 and 20 million) emergency medical response infrastructure. I learnt such things as the fact that in Pakistan, there is no regulatory definition of what constitutes an ambulance (a vehicle with a siren qualifies) and the city of Karachi or indeed Sindh province has no public health emergency response network – citizens rely on a mix of NGOs and philanthropic organizations along with some vehicles attached to large hospitals and private and commercially hired transport to relay emergency cases for treatment to hospitals. “Learning about Aman Ambulance, a network of 100 ambulances deployed across Karachi led me to a study of Karachi’s (a city of between 18 and 20 million) emergency medical response infrastructure.”
As a major area of focus, I was also able to work with Aman Foundation to help conceptualize and create the Aman Fellows program - a major new planned initiative of Aman Foundation that will be based on Enterprise Fellows (enabled to launch enterprises leading to job growth) and Research Fellows (trained and supported to produce actionable research) focused on key development areas. Being able to build a program from the start was a rare and exciting opportunity – having the ability and platform to present the idea and mechanics of the planned program to a range of partners and stakeholders and soliciting their honest feedback was a great learning opportunity. I look forward to continuing work on co-developing and launching the program. South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
As part of my work and interests and to enable and strengthen institutional linkages I was able to visit academic and professional institutions across the length and breadth of Pakistan such as the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), the Karachi School of Business and Leadership (KSBL), the Aman Center for Entrepreneurship Development (Aman CED), the Institute of Business Administration of the University of Karachi (IBA), the Aga Khan University, the Indus Hospital, Interactive Research and Development (IRD), the NED University of Engineering and Technology, the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS), the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Global Think Tank Network (GTTN), the State Bank of Pakistan Museum along with meetings with the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), the World Bank, the Collective for Social Science Research (the â€˜Collective), The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) and the MIT Enterprise Forum of Pakistan along with exceptional independent researchers and advocates such as Arif Hasan, Reza Ali and S. Akbar Zaidi. In short, it was a phenomenal summer and I am deeply grateful for the SAI funding that enabled it, as these linkages will lead to countless research and professional collaborations and development opportunities â€“ all of which I am super-excited to be able to pursue.
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH GRANT REPORTS With a focus on supporting undergraduate thesis research, the SAI undergraduate research grants allows students to conduct on the ground inquiries and deep dives into the subject of their choice. In addition to these thesis projects, SAI supports both independent and faculty initiated projects, like the Medical Technologies research team who were based in Bangalore this summer and working in collaboration with Professor Conor Walsh’s lab at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Dipona Bandy – 2014, Social Studies Thesis Research on Transnational and National Approaches to Feminist Organizing around Sexual Violence in Calcutta and Delhi, India My thesis research began this summer through fieldwork on women’s anti-sexual violence organizing in two cities in India, Calcutta and Delhi. I sought to conduct research, through interviewing members of women’s anti-violence organizations and activist groups, into the ways in which Indian women’s movements and the Indian government have historically engaged and continue to negotiate with anti-rape struggles and discussions of sexuality in the face of transnational concerns about these issues. Before traveling to India, I had gathered most of my knowledge from secondary sources such as news media and printed books. Recognizing the gaps in my knowledge from relying solely upon these sources, I knew the best next step for my research would be to speak to activists working ‘on the ground’. I was able to conduct over 25 interviews with women’s rights activists and scholars in India during my fieldwork, providing a solid qualitative basis for the thesis I will be working on throughout the year and continuing to supplement with secondary source material. After many interviews, I have decided to focus my research upon the activism strategies used regionally in a certain political sphere, in Calcutta women’s organizing circles, to negotiate with the state and engage the larger public. I first traveled to Calcutta for three weeks, conducting interviews with members of many different activist organizations advocating for specific populations, such as disabled women, survivors of domestic violence, and queer women. All, however, focused upon anti-violence work and were members of the Maitree collective, which I discovered more about as I interviewed more organizers. I learned that Maitree is a loose network of organizations in Calcutta that, through formal and informal channels, join together to mutually make demands. They call for government redress in specific cases of violence, advocate for sensitive and effective legal reforms, and raise awareness of the realities of violence against women. Because of the leads I developed in Calcutta about Maitree, I became interested in examining its operations, and each member’s conceptions of its work, as a case study of evolving feminist praxis in India. After my time in Calcutta, I then traveled to Delhi, the city that has been in the national spotlight for its anti-rape protests, for two weeks. I met with both activists and scholars in Delhi to interrogate the idea of ‘national’ women’s organizing and learn more about the details of the organizing around the 2012 case and its repercussions. I also visited archives, such as the Center for Women’s Development Studies, to obtain materials unavailable in the United States on historic women’s groups’ early mobilizations.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
I appreciate very much the financial support the South Asia Institute has provided me for my summer fieldwork, as it provided me opportunities for both academic and personal growth. I was challenged throughout the summer in locating interviews and establishing enough trust with activists for them to share their stories with me. As I communicated my sincere investment in learning about their work, however, many members of organizing networks opened their homes and offices to me to share their experiences. This process of cultivating relationships with others in a different country was the most startling part of my fieldwork for me. Visiting India with individual purpose and with the initiative to seek out others who shared my interests changed my perceptions of India, and made it a country I hope to return to soon!
Benjamin Lamont- 2014, South Asian Studies Senior Thesis Research on the Role of Civil Society in Indian Foreign Policy in Delhi, India I am a joint concentrator in Government and South Asian Studies and my thesis research explores the role of civil society in influencing Indian foreign policy decisions and focuses on several recent episodes as case studies. There has been some recent writing on Indian foreign policy decision making, but it remains a relatively new topic of study which means my project is an exciting opportunity for me to try to add something valuable to the wider discourse. Thanks to a grant from the South Asia Institute, I spent just over four weeks in Delhi during July and August conducting interviews for my thesis. My arrival coincided with the South Asia Instituteâ€™s first immersion program, which I participated in and greatly enjoyed. Several of the folks I met in those first few days later helped connect me with valuable interviews.
â€œAll of my interviewees were open and engaging, providing me with information and opinions that I would not have come across during library research back in Cambridge."
Thanks to a combination of friends, the Harvard brand and serendipity, I landed a number of high-profile and useful interviews including with a senior TV foreign affairs journalist and a former High Commissioner to Pakistan, Chief of Army staff and Head of the Research and Analysis Wing (the Indian CIA equivalent). I am very grateful that all of my interviewees were open and engaging, providing me with information and opinions that I would not have come across during library research back in Cambridge. In all, I conducted eighteen formal interviews and many more informal ones. The understanding of the issues I developed from these conversations will form the foundation of my thesis and has moved me much further along in my understanding of the issues. Foreign policy decision making, even in democracies, is traditionally restricted to a few elite decision makers. However I believe as Indiaâ€™s democracy is maturing, key foreign policy decisions, on issues such as the USIndia nuclear deal, are increasingly subject to influence by forces such as public opinion, the media and NGOs. By better understanding their role as stakeholders in foreign policy decisions, we should be better equipped to predict future Indian foreign policy decisions. Living in Delhi was a fantastic experience and I spent time with a number of different Harvard friends over my month there. Highlights include trips to Chandni Chowk and various Delhi think tanks, meals with friends old and new and accomplishing the simple tasks of living in a city such as grocery shopping and paying a phone bill. The trip was a fantastic learning experience and a truly unique opportunity for which I am tremendously grateful.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Ada Lin- 2014, Social Studies Senior Thesis Research on the Naxalite Movement in Delhi, India This summer, I spent about two months in New Delhi researching my senior thesis project on the Naxalite Movement, a leftist movement that emerged in Calcutta in the 1970s. The late 1960s in West Bengal saw the convergence of two significant events: the rise of agrarian tensions, culminating in the peasant rebellion in Naxalbari (from which the Naxalite Movement takes its name), and an ideological debate that resulted in the creation of a splinter group, the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML). Under the leadership of the Maoist ideologue, Charu Mazumdar, the CPI-ML and university students in Calcutta argued for a more radical and violent method of revolution, in contrast to the largely parliamentary and nonviolent methods of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Although the movement was violently repressed in 1972, Maoist groups have reemerged along Indiaâ€™s northeast forest belt, an area rich in resources such as coal and minerals. When I first developed my thesis proposal, I had hoped to study the movement of the 1970s in order to help explain the relationship between ideological commitments and political action in the contemporary Naxalite Movement. However, my time spent in New Delhi helped steer me toward a clearer picture of the historical as well as modern day Maoist movement. During the course of the summer, I had several crucial interviews with people who have studied or participated in the movements. One such interview was with Aditya Nigam of the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. Professor Nigam discussed with me the ideological debates that dominated the Indian left parties since Indian Independence, and particularly the political and ideological tug-of-war that was emerging between China and the Soviet Union. Another interview that was instrumental was a conversation with the journalist Diptosh Majumdar. Majumdar, who was eight years old when the Naxalite Movement began, spoke to me about the overall ideological landscape of West Bengal at the time of the uprising. Majumdar and I discussed the extent of popular support for the student movement as well as the ways in which Marxism had culturally permeated Calcutta. My â€œMy time spent in New Delhi helped conversations with authors and policy specialists steer me toward a clearer picture of such as Omair Ahmad of the Friedrich Naumann the historical as well as modern day Institute revealed that the contemporary Maoist movement.â€? movement was structurally and ideologically different in each of the regions in which the Maoists operated. This prompted me to shift away from an analysis of both movements toward more specific research on the 1970s movement in Calcutta. Conversations with other journalists such as Abhishek Kumar, development specialists, and academics helped me to gain a more nuanced understanding about the modern day Maoist movement and the political motives behind the representation of the Maoists in media. One of the first places that I visited in New Delhi was the P.C. Joshi Archives on Contemporary History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where most of the official documents of the Communist Party of India are held. There, I studied the index of the archive and found a few documents that were referenced the
Naxalite Movement, most of which took a critical stance against the actions undertaken by the student movement. This helped me to gain a better picture of the perspective of the CPI and situate the movement in a broader discussion of theory and political action. During my last week in India, I made an unforgettable trip to Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, where I spent several days with the NGO, Sanskriti. Sanskriti is dedicated to preserving the tribal art of indigenous groups such as the Santals, whose traditions of mud-painting have been threatened by the onset of large-scale mining projects. There, I learned about the complicated relationships between the Maoists, mining corporations, and the tribal groups that have been trapped in the middle of an economic tussle over resources. Perhaps the greatest lesson that I learned this summer was that research sometimes poses unexpected difficulties. Conversations with dozens of scholars, journalists, along with archival work, helped me gain a better sense of how broad-scale ideologies become reinterpreted in specific political climates. Following my summer in New Delhi, I have begun to delve into research on the role of the Sino-Soviet debates in the fractures of Indian communism and especially its role in Naxalbari. A deeper analysis of the Naxalite Movement of the 1970s would provide interesting insights into how international debates become localized and some of the tensions between ideology and practice with which movements must deal. Thanks once again to the South Asia Institute for helping make my thesis work a reality. I first fell in love with New Delhi after my freshman year while on a David Rockefeller Grant. After that summer, I dove into South Asian studies and have never looked back. Had it not been for generous grants like these, I would not have been able to watch the kites fly over India Gate like I did this Independence Day, little pinpoints of color sweeping through the air. I suspect I am still on the first legs of what will be quite a long and interesting journey.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Hannah Morrill- 2014, Environmental Science and Public Policy Senior Thesis Research on Vulnerability in the Process of Climate Change Adaptation in Kathmandu, Nepal As preparation for writing my senior thesis on the definition of vulnerability in the process of climate change adaptation, I spent a very memorable summer conducting research across a variety of locations in Nepal. Initially, I arrived in Kathmandu and realised that I had made the right call bringing my rain jacket and umbrella. The skies opened just as I arrived in the hostel I was staying in for the first few nights and I ended up watching the powerful monsoon rains outside for quite a while. After acclimatising to the heat, humidity and time difference, I began working on getting used to the layout of the city and setting up meetings with useful contacts and officials regarding my research. I spent the next few weeks based in the suburbs of Kathmandu, meeting with various agencies ranging from the Department for International Development (DFID), part of the UK government, to Rupantaran, a local NGO. All of the meetings were productive in some way- even if the agency or institution itself couldn’t provide me with data or concrete sources, they could at least provide me with other people to contact. I definitely learnt very quickly that due to the limited access to the Internet, a lot of websites and publications listed online were out of date and that knowing someone who knew someone was the best way to tackle this. Another realisation that continued to surprise me during my time in Nepal was the extent of how everyone knows everyone – a testament to the high rate of turnaround in many positions, especially within the fragile government. After spending some time gathering this background information and working on the questions I wanted to address I met with the Integrated Development Society-Nepal (IDS-Nepal), a local NGO that had successfully applied for and won the right to oversee the implementation of a new DFID-funded programme called the Multi-Sector Forestry Programme (MSFP). IDS-Nepal is responsible for 5 districts in Mid-Western and Far-Western Nepal and the initial phase of MSFP required the preparation of Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPAs) for every Village Development Committee (VDC) in the District. The LAPA concept is one unique to Nepal and is the local version of the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires for the allocation of climate change adaptation funding to non-Annex 1 countries. The LAPAs developed through MSFP will have a variety of different entry points even though it is a forestry programme because of the cross-sectoral impacts of climate change. This unique framework is what my research focused on as it aims to address the “one size fits all” problem that many countries face having solely developed national plans and thus miss out on transferring this “The four days we spent with a variety of community knowledge to a grassroots level. members from different economic levels, castes and I was lucky enough to travel out to forestry user groups, was a great learning experience Dailekh District in western Nepal, to for me and it was very useful for my research to see join 3 members of IDS-Nepal, to the process first-hand.” observe and interview participants in a LAPA Preparation Process. This week was my favourite week in Nepal even though the journey from Kathmandu took a whole day and
included a flight, drive and walk to reach my destination! We spent a few days working out the specifics and goals we wanted to each achieve in Rawokot VDC, and this allowed me the time to interview these team members about how they treat vulnerability and their opinion of the accuracy of vulnerability assessments that form a large part of the LAPA preparation. Due to the mountainous terrain and inaccessibility, every morning and evening, we hiked 3 hours from the closest hotel in Dailekh Bazaar to a school in Rawokot Village Development Committee (VDC) where the process was held. This hike was a refreshing break from the intensity of Kathmandu! The four days we spent with a variety of community members from different economic levels, castes and forestry user groups, was a great learning experience for me and it was very useful for my research to see the process first-hand. It was immediately obvious where the pressure points were â€“ changes that impact agriculture, water supply and health were by far the most damaging impacts to this VDC and were those that made certain populations most vulnerable. These topics stimulated the most heated debate as representatives fiercely fought for their right to protection. A large part of vulnerability assessment in Nepal stems from using local knowledge but the subjective nature of some of the discussions I witnessed made it very hard to tease out who and where were the most vulnerable aspects in this VDC. In short, my time in Nepal was both rich in life and academic experience and I am very grateful to the South Asian Institute for providing me with the resources to pursue such a productive and thoughtprovoking summer. I hope that my senior thesis will further prove this as well as benefit those that I met through my research by helping to refine climate change adaptation attempts in Nepal.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Danielle Schulkin- 2014, History of Science Senior Thesis Research on Population Control Measures in Delhi, India Senior Dani Schulkin here, reporting after a summer of thesis research based in New Delhi, India. To begin, I cannot thank the South Asian Institute enough for making this adventure possible. At times challenging, at times thrilling, this summer has been by far my most interesting. How could it not be? I found myself suddenly immersed within a rich and utterly foreign culture to my own, attempting to conduct independent research as a woman in a less-than-forgiving environment, and trying to explore and understand a place with a history that long predates anywhere I've ever lived. I started off thinking I would be based within the Indian National Archives, a place I knew would be difficult to gain admission to in the first place. At the time, I was researching the international machinations on extreme population control measures during the 1970s, such as the mass sterilization camps seen during Indira Gandhi's Emergency. This research quickly led me to an interest in today's population control policies and the incentive driven sterilization camps that still exist. After a week of trying to gain admission to the national archives, getting the right stamp from the US Embassy, and finally persuading the librarian to let me in, I decided to drop the archives and pursue this more timely topic. So it goes. I struggled to gain footing for the first three weeks as I stumbled around trying to nail down interviews while simultaneously trying to narrow down my topic. Figuring out how to get from one place to another, connecting with interviewees, and navigating the infamous bureaucracy of India was a learning experience. I am very much in debt to a few key people who pointed me in the right direction, particularly Abhijit Das at the Centre for Health and Social Justice and Madhu Krishna at the Gates Foundation. “Figuring out how to get from one place to another, connecting with interviewees, and navigating the infamous bureaucracy of India was a learning experience.”
While exploring the city, I quickly became a fan of the metro system, and, in particular, the women's compartments of the metro whose quiet underbelly clashed with the roar of the streets above. Meanwhile, I found out that I am hopeless at bartering with street vendors but can sometimes secure a fair price with the auto drivers. At moments, I surprised myself with a tenacity I hadn’t felt or perhaps needed in Cambridge. By the end of my stay, I felt empowered walking down the streets, hailing autos, and feeling comfortable in the raucous city. Despite my initial timidity navigating a city as large as Delhi, there were moments during my stay when I was completely floored with wonder at how small the world can be. Most memorably, I started uncontrollably laughing when my childhood best friend walked into a nine person public health initiative office. She was interning there for the summer, but, really, what are the odds? There were others moments like that too. In fact, “It’s such a small world” became a theme of the trip. Upon my return, several people have asked me whether or not I would go back. Each time, I respond with surprise that yes, of course, I need to visit my friends and family. For truly, my host family was unbelievably kind and generous. I found myself with a new set of parents, siblings, and a grandfather who all graciously invited me into their home and adopted me during the length of my stay. After watching
Bollywood movies, eating meals together, going out to the malls, meeting other "family members" (aka their entire colony), and being driven to the airport on my last day, I felt the pangs normally felt when leaving a home. For this summer, I was part of the family. I think the most apt description of India came from my host mom who described India as "loud:" the colors are loud, the food is loud, and the cars are definitely loud. Sitting in Newark airport at the end of my 6 week stay, I felt the absence of noise. I remember thinking, "Where are the colors? Have knees always looked this weird?" And, panicking, "AH, why can't I get any chai!?" A big thank you again to the SAI for funding this experience.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Paolo Singer- 2013, Economics Research on the I.T. Economy and Inclusive Urban Growth in Bangalore and Delhi, India My summer in India was the exploration of a new economic growth story. Attempting to tie together the perspectives from the architects of the Indian economy, the private sector and its newfound wealth, and the urban residents excluded from high-skilled jobs, I spent my summer interviewing key players from towering I.T. offices and Delhi’s political center, to rural villages and garbage collection centers. How did India become globally dominant in IT “My question on the growth of IT services is linked to the services? Between broader issue of human development. Growth is not an end, government officials and but an instrument to social and human freedoms. Is India’s industry executives, I was new wealth ‘inclusive,’ or at least, ‘trickling down’?” able to hear an array of perspectives that focused on the roles of globalization, openness, and government activism. I spent time at the head office of the Software Technology Parks of India agency (STPI), which coordinates the primary incentives for the tech economy. In addition to speaking with top policymakers at STPI, I also had the chance to peruse some of their archives, where I found government documents from the early 1990’s and late 1980’s, and data from the earliest developments in the industry. In New Delhi and Bangalore, I was able to supplement this data with perspectives from the World Bank, the McKinsey Global Institute, economists at NASSCOM (the trade group that represents IT firms in India), university professors, and executives at Wipro, Infosys, and smaller technology companies. My question on the growth of IT services is linked to the broader issue of human development. Growth is not an end, but an instrument to social and human freedoms. Is India’s new wealth “inclusive,” or at least, “trickling down”? The sprawling technology campuses of Bangalore are enormous, wealthy, and isolated from the rest of the city, modern-day fortresses. Surrounded by slums of migrants and locals, the radical inequality is startling and disturbing. As prices of basic goods such as food and rent increase in urban areas, the poor can become even more vulnerable than they were before if their incomes are not increasing with the rest of the economy. And if the technology sector is only employing the brightest and most elite young adults in the country, can promoting the industry with generous preferential treatment be the best way for the government to improve the welfare of the common man and woman? To gain more of an understanding of how new economic growth intersects with the poor and the informal economy, I interviewed local activists and residents on their perceptions of economic growth in low-income areas. Focusing on the lowest-paying segments of the informal economy, such as wastepicking, construction, and domestic labor, I encountered primarily positive sentiments in Bangalore and Delhi on the new job opportunities that had been created over the past few years. Even with an influx of new migrants, new wealth meant more consumption and new job opportunities into India’s cities: drivers, chefs, domestic workers, cleaners, and construction workers become far more in demand than they were previously.
I found the government had an instrumental role in supporting inclusive development: it was by no means intrinsic to economic growth itself. As one of the directors of the Master Urban Planning Commission of Bangalore explained to me, the only way the poor can benefit from the city’s new wealth is if they are close enough to it to access the new opportunities it creates. If low-income residents, who do not own their land, are displaced to the peripheries of Bangalore, not only will they be further away from new wealth, but also their existing livelihoods such as textile jobs and tea stalls will also disappear. For the government, protecting existing residents who live on land worth as much as New York’s midtown was key to inclusive growth; growth as an instrument for greater prosperity, not growth as an ultimate end. Complementing my analysis of data with “Complementing my analysis of data with field field research proved important to research proved important to understand the understand the causes and implications of causes and implications of growth. Economic growth. Economic data can give you data can give you correlations, even strong ones, correlations, even strong ones, but but understanding local perspectives is important understanding local perspectives is for interpreting how those correlations make important for interpreting how those sense.” correlations make sense. Behind every growth story there is an array of ongoing political struggles over new wealth, from the highest ranks of the government to the common citizens. This political struggle is what determines whether economic growth becomes an instrument of prosperity or a conspicuous symbol of power.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Darshali Vyas- 2014, Social Studies Senior Thesis Research on Participatory Rural Healthcare in Ahemdabad, India With the generous support of the South Asia Institute, this summer I completed senior thesis research on participatory healthcare as a means of rights advancement in rural Ahmedabad. I worked closely with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), established in 1972 as a trade union comprised of women employed in the informal, unorganized sector of the Indian economy. Because these women do not receive the benefits that accompany formal positions, SEWA works to provide these women with a range of services – among them, quality healthcare. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is a newer initiative introduced in 2005 on a national scale but contextualized differently within each individual state to expand health services to rural populations in India. Because both of these initiatives are now operating within the same communities in Gujarat, much of my ethnographic work explored how the two initiatives are interacting and how the role of SEWA might be shifting in light of the state’s newfound focus on the public sector. While my research still needs much unpacking and analysis, some of my primary conclusions lead me to believe that within Gujarat’s development model even under NRHM, there is still a fundamental need for organizations like SEWA that are influencing and pushing forward a public health state agenda. "My summer was more challenging and enlightening than I expected because I was finally afforded the incredible opportunity to learn about India in my own right. I return to Cambridge with not only a slew of interviews to transcribe, but a formative experience that has influenced how I view my academic, cultural, and social ties to my home country."
In many ways, my research was a natural progression from the coursework I have completed thus far. During my Social Studies junior tutorial on The Political Economy of Health in the Developing World, I delved into the intricacies of the National Rural Health Mission by analyzing policy briefs, evaluation reports, and curricula for the NRHM health workers, background research which helped me narrow the scope of my research interests. I first learned about the Self Employed Women’s Association during a Religion seminar I took last spring on Mahatma Gandhi and his legacies on social change in Indian society. After a quick Google search demonstrating that both organizations work in Gujarat – my family’s home state – my mind was made on a destination for my research. But regardless of my academic preparation for this summer endeavor, I never anticipated how deeply this trip would influence my personal worldview. Though I grew up communicating in Gujarati with relatives, utilizing the language in an academic setting was extremely different and very rewarding – particularly when I realized that men and women in the villages understood me despite my horrific accent. I was born in Mumbai but moved to the United States with my parents at the young age of three. As a result, all of my previous interactions with my home country have been through the lens of my parents. Visits had revolved around great food, excessive shopping, and family visits – leaving little time to experience the country through the rich experiences and lessons that its people have to offer. My summer was more challenging and enlightening than I expected because I was finally afforded the incredible opportunity to learn about India in my own right. I return to Cambridge with not only a slew of interviews to transcribe, but a formative experience that has influenced how I view my academic, cultural, and social ties to my home country.
Richard Saliba- 2015, Harvard College Medical Device Innovation with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India I spent summer 2013 doing research on medical devices for low-income, low-resource global markets in the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India, and it was definitely one of the most amazing summers of my life. Writing this report right now is making me very nostalgic, and it’s causing a ton of fantastic memories to rush through my head, making me wish I could go back to living an experience that exceeded my expectations in every single way. I am studying Electrical Engineering at Harvard College, and I hope to pursue a secondary degree in Applied Mathematics, but I am also very interested in public health and affordable healthcare worldwide. This summer was the first time that I actually got a chance to get immersed in a third-world healthcare system and observe the intersection between engineering, design and medicine. I was working with a total of eight other students – four from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Harvard Medical School, and four from the Indian Institute of Science pursuing a Masters degree in Design. We were based in the Center for Product Deign and Manufacturing (CPDM), and we were mentored by Professor B. Gurumoorthy from IISc and Professor Connor Walsh from SEAS. The research was divided into three main phases: observation, conceptualization and prototyping. During the observation phase, we were based in three health institutions. The first was a top-tier private hospital where I was working in the Emergency Room, the Intensive Care Unit and the Operation Rooms. I got to observe operations raging from a leg amputation to the removal of a brain tumor to a gallbladder removal, and it was my first time ever in such a setting. The second observed institute was a rural Primary Health Center that was run by a combined government-NGO initiative. This health center provides medical services to the tribes who inhabit the mountain, and I observed their dental care and eye care units in depth seeing how I was isolated from the outside world due to the lack of phone service, internet or even any “… I was working with a Harvard College student, a kind of motorized Harvard Medical student, and two Indian students doing transportation. The third and their Masters of Design... This was probably the most last institute I observed was a diverse and exciting team I’ve ever worked with because mid-tier private hospital we were all such different students who had distinct subsidized by certain religious perspectives and various approaches to solving the same groups. Again, I was mainly problem we were working on.” focused on their Intensive Care Unit and the Operation Rooms. I also visited a clinic they run in a rural village and observed their medical records archiving system and how they the handle the storage and distribution of medicine. During the observation phase, I was completely absorbed in the Indian medical healthcare system, and I was particularly taken aback by the disparity between the different institutions I was based in. And amid the overwhelming poverty and malnutrition that I came across, I saw hope and resilience in the faces of many people. This definitely compelled me to stay focused on what's at stake because I knew that it would make a difference to at least one other human being. South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
After finishing the observation phase, the team compiled a list of 48 observed problems that we then entered the conceptualization phase with. Using certain criteria, we were able to narrow down the list of observed problems, and after a very long and detailed process, we went down to two problems and divided the nine-person group into two teams to work on the final two problems. During the conceptualization phase, I was working with a Harvard College student, a Harvard Medical student, and two Indian students doing their Masters of Design, and we chose to build a multi-purpose suction device. This was probably the most diverse and exciting team I’ve ever worked with because we were all such different students who had distinct perspectives and various approaches to solving the same problem we were working on. All projects I had previously worked on at Harvard were with other Harvard students, and the most diverse it ever got was to have older or younger students pursuing other concentrations within the engineering school. However, the experience of working with my team this summer was definitely something irreplaceable. It was really amazing to interact with the design students at the Center for Product Design and Manufacturing at the Indian Institute of Science. They helped me better understand the needs and demands of the Indian lowincome market, and I learned so much about the design process every day. I remember feeling excited yet anxious about the project prior to going to India, but with every day, I felt my initial anxiety being replaced by an eagerness to learn and have an impact on the current healthcare system there. Finally, after defining our problem, conceptualizing our “I found the need to be approach and designing our suction device, we moved on resourceful and creative, to the last and final stage: the prototyping phase. This was especially due to the lack of the most relevant part to my expertise as an Electrical certain equipment and Engineering student, but I also found myself learning materials in a place such as valuable information that I never came across when India. Prototyping with an prototyping in Harvard labs where everything is available. extremely low budget and with I found the need to be resourceful and creative, especially a lack of resources taught me due to the lack of certain equipment and materials in a how to think outside the box place such as India. Prototyping with an extremely low and how to improve my critical budget and with a lack of resources taught me how to thinking and work ingeniously.” think outside the box and how to improve my critical thinking and work ingeniously. I also found it amazing to teach some engineering skills to the others on my team who had less experience with engineering but who had taught me so much in the previous phase about the design process. This exchange of knowledge and skills between peers was one of the most effective learning experiences I’ve ever had! This summer was such an important step in helping me determine what I want to do in life. I have always enjoyed engineering, but this experience helped me realize that I love solving problems through engineering, especially problems related to global affordable healthcare and education. I realized that even though I enjoy working in the lab, I would much rather be working outside of it finding problems and thinking of creative ways to approach them. I also realized that so much of what I did always went back to basic administrative procedures related to funding and human resources, and I realized that I am
actually very interested in learning how global markets work on the levels of competition and investment, pushing me to realize that I am very interested in going to Business School after college. As for living in India for the first time, I cannot be prouder of myself. At first, I was very apprehensive about going there and working for a government institute after hearing about all the risks associated with it – malaria and unclean water being just a few. And to be honest, during the first few weeks there, I wasn’t sure I was going to survive through the summer. I was terrified of all the insects, the food was way too spicy and I could barely eat anything, there were no washing machines or dryers and I had to wash my clothes by hand, and the traffic was driving me crazy. However, with time, I began feeling like I belong. India grew on me, and before I realized it, I fell in love with the culture. Whenever people ask me to describe India, I say it was “astonishingly fierce.” I was exposed to such a rich culture, and nothing I can say will fully describe how happy I was by the end of the summer. From exploring the amazing Mughal architecture to visiting Hindi and Sikh Temples to swimming with elephants and playing music with a king cobra wrapped around my neck, it was a series of adventures. I explored India and took it all in, and I found myself leaving with tears in my eyes on the way to the airport at the end of it. The knowledge I gained, the friendships I made and the memories I formed will stay with me forever! I now realize what a phenomenal summer I had, and none of it would have been possible without the generous gift I received from the South Asia Institute. I have grown on so many levels, and I feel like I know myself better now, and I have become a more cultured citizen of the world with a more tangible idea of where to go next, and I want to heartily thank the SAI donors who’ve generously provided the funds that helped shape my path in life. Truly, my gratitude cannot be limited by words, and for this I am indeed very happy and thankful!
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Karen Xiao- 2015, Harvard College Medical Device Innovation with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India Before coming to college, I definitely wouldn’t have expected to be spending a summer in India working on designing medical devices for low resource areas. But upon stepping off the plane at the beginning this summer in Bangalore, I couldn’t help but feel that this trip was the culmination of my academic and extracurricular interests in college, combining the interests I have developed in computer science, global health, and South Asia in my three years at Harvard. My interests in healthcare unexpectedly developed freshman year when I took a freshman seminar with Sean and Judy Palfrey on Child Health in America. Even though I didn’t have a background in medicine, the class introduced me to a lot of the challenges in the healthcare system and it got me interested in ways to solve them. As a Computer Science concentrator with a secondary in Global Health, I was excited by the many opportunities there were for technology to solve some of the most pressing issues in the world, like healthcare. I wanted to put into practice some of the things I had learned in my global health classes while simultaneously growing my technological understanding as a computer science concentrator, so when I learned about the opportunity through SEAS to work with a team of engineers to design medical devices in India, I was immediately interested. "…Upon stepping off the plane at the beginning this summer in Bangalore, I couldn’t help but feel that this trip was the culmination of my academic and extracurricular interests in college, combining the interests I have developed in computer science, global health, and South Asia in my three years at Harvard.”
But really, a big reason in my decision to come to India over other places stemmed from my involvement in the South Asian community after coming to Harvard, realizing that I loved South Asian dance and eventually directing Ghungroo, Harvard’s South Asian cultural show, this past year. Since then, I have wanted to visit India to reconcile the vastly different images of India I had in my mind: one, of the India presented to me in many of my global health classes at school, an India plagued by the social and economic issues of a developing world; and the other, the India from the vibrant and colorful Bollywood dance sequences that I spent hours learning steps to, on a fast-track to adopt Western technologies and ideals. At the beginning of this summer, our team of two engineers, two computer scientists and a first-year medical student stepped off of our white Tata taxi onto the surprisingly lusciously green campus of Tata Institute (the local name for IISC, the Indian Institute of Science), with the arbitrarily ambitious goal of “designing medical devices for low-resource areas.” We, along with four design students from IISC, were assigned the task of visiting hospitals, speaking to doctors, devising a problem, and ultimately designing and prototyping a device in a short ten weeks. Two and a half months later, we left India with two prototypes, some dispelled stereotypes, and many memories.
Our first few weeks were spent visiting various hospitals, observing procedures and talking to doctors. At Fortis Hospital, a very high-end and well-funded hospital, I observed a woman give birth via cesarean section – something I never thought I would ever observe so closely. At St. John’s Hospital, we talked to a doctor who suggested to us the “life-changing” idea of building robotic mosquitos that would take a patient’s blood sample and then combust in mid-air after sending the results of the patient’s blood test to a central computer. But it was at the village health centers of the tribal areas of Biligiriranga Hills that I felt like we really came together both as a team and with a purpose. Living in the rural villages with the tribal children where we had poor running water and didn’t shower for four days, we saw cataract surgeries being performed in conditions we didn’t think possible, an ambulance that was pretty much a car with a bed placed inside, and a woman undergoing a cesarean section without a functioning suction device present. The next few weeks was a difficult struggle to hone down the problems we saw in our observations and match them to a device that could be feasibly designed and built in three weeks given the skill set we had present in the teams. Ultimately, our two teams designed a mechanical ventilator that can be used on rural ambulances in transporting patients over long distances, and a suction device that provided continuous suction and didn’t run on electricity. Though we were happy with the prototypes we developed, we ultimately realized that the issues that healthcare in India face aren’t purely technological ones. It takes more than just simply building a lowcost device to improve the conditions of many of the rural healthcare clinics – it takes the right financial ability as well as a lot of cultural acceptance to get these devices to come to fruition in these clinics. It takes more than just the work of engineers but entrepreneurs, public health workers, doctors, and many more. This experience, however, has made me very optimistic in the role technology can play in aiding public health and social work. It has also allowed me to see the many different sides of India: both the rural areas as well as very commercialized areas and see it as an incredibly diverse and complex country. Without the generous help of our donors, our mentors, and the many people we came into contact with this summer, this summer would not have been possible and I am thankful for all the people who have made this a summer that I will remember long after I graduate.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Matthew Yarri- 2014, Harvard College Medical Device Innovation with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India During my time at Harvard I have serendipitously become fascinated by the Indian subcontinent, by its people, its history, and its culture. Not being of South Asian descent myself, I became involved with Harvard’s South Asian community, and its student production Ghungroo, my freshmen year and there my fascination with South Asia began. Therefore, when I came across the possibility of spending my last undergraduate summer in India, I jumped at the incredible opportunity. My project for the summer was to “I had never carried out a 10-week design research low cost medical devices for project in a foreign country…where even low-income markets by working finding parts to build with required clever alongside four other Harvard students resourcefulness.” and 4 other masters of design students at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. I had worked on designing medical devices my previous summer so I was very excited to dive back into what I view as an exciting and nuanced problem. Our work began by first carrying out three weeks of field research and needs-finding at varying Indian healthcare centers, which was very fascinating and was perhaps my favorite part of the project. We visited a variety of healthcare centers: high-end hospitals, charity hospitals, and rural primary care facilities; observing doctors, surgeons, and nurses go through their everyday routine trying to identify areas for improvement. This was the first time I got to observe the medical field in such an intimate fashion and was an experience I found incredibly rewarding. I feel that most people do not get so see the bustle of an ICU, the workings of an ambulance, and the mystery that is an operating theater until they themselves, or a loved one, are checked in as patients in a hospital. Getting to watch these surgeries and healthcare providers up close, and to be able to ask them questions about how and why they were providing certain methods of care was not only really interesting, but I think was an incredibly valuable life experience. Our group wound up working on the issue of ventilation, specifically trying to come up with alternatives to the very expensive $30,000 automatic ventilators that are tasked with keeping a patient alive while they are unconscious, paralyzed, or under anesthesia. Many healthcare centers simply could not afford these expensive units and require a nurse, anesthesiologist, or other healthcare worker to remain at the bedside and manually ventilate the patient, squeezing an air bladder every 5 or so seconds to deliver artificial “breaths”. I even had the unique experience of being handed this air bladder and being asked by an anesthesiologist to ventilate the patient (who was having their gallbladder removed) for five minutes while he changed the patient’s IV medications. This lack of infrastructure not only tied up key medical personnel, but also the irregularity in the way the breaths were delivered carried with it a danger of hyperinflation and posed a danger to patient safety. “I was stunned by how unique each and every one of these breathtaking places was, how in each place I felt I was seeing a totally different slice of India.”
Having had this experience we then sought out to design a low-cost manually operated ventilator that was effectively “dummy-proof”. We wanted to improve
upon the simple air-bladder to create a device that could help a person deliver these “breaths” using a fixed volume and at a consistent rate. Over the remaining weeks of the summer we worked to brainstorm different ways of reaching this solution, to narrow our ideas and make difficult design decisions, and to in the final weeks put together a first-pass prototype of our idea. Design is something that I feel one gets better at only through practice and having unique experiences, and working on this project was definitely a unique experience. I had never carried out a 10-week design project in a foreign country, with masters students who brought with them a variety of life experiences, and where even finding parts to build with required clever resourcefulness. I found the process and experience of working on this project, given its challenges, extremely rewarding and I believe I emerged from the experience a better and stronger designer. As I mentioned earlier, since coming to Harvard I have become fascinated with the rich culture of South Asia and all the time I wasn’t devoting to the project I devoted to experiencing India to the fullest. With my fellow teammates we not only explored the city of Bangalore, but used our weekends to travel all across India, managing to visit Mysore, Hampi, Kerala, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai by the summer’s end. I feel that it is easy to read or hear a statement saying that “India is a diverse place” without fully absorbing just what that really means. However, I was stunned by how unique each and every one of these breathtaking places was, how in each place I felt I was seeing a totally different slice of India, and how at times it was hard to imagine that each of these snapshots somehow came together to form one nation. I wouldn’t be telling the entire story if I didn’t mention that the summer was also challenging at times, but in a way that brought about a lot of personal growth. This was the first time I had lived abroad in a foreign country for an extended period of time, and that brought with it challenges of finding adequate nutrition, anxiety in a new environment, and solitude. However I found the experience of working through these challenges rewarding and I feel that I emerged from the summer with a strong sense of self and what I might want my years after graduation to look like. Coming back to the US and Harvard after my experience in India has been a process I’ve really enjoyed. Every time I’m abroad I always return with a renewed appreciation of the comforts of the US, of its infrastructure, and the privilege it is to live here. However, more than anything this period of “reentry” has been characterized by a deep appreciation for the friendships and communities that I’ve developed and been privileged to be a part of here in the US and at Harvard. One often hears the oft-quote maxim that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and living through this by reconnecting with the really remarkable people I’ve grown close to, and sharing our stories and newfound perspectives, has been the highlight of my return to the United States. Finally, I would like to close this reflection by thanking the people that made this experience possible for me. This summer was incredibly rewarding and forced me to grow in very new ways, and without their generosity this experience simply would not have been possible. They will forever have my gratitude and I hope this opportunity continues to exist so that future student can grow and learn from the unique experience that is living and working in a place far from home.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
GRADUATE RESEARCH GRANT REPORTS Mou Bannerjee- GSAS, Department of History Dissertation Research on India and Christianity in the 19th Century in Calcutta, India My aim this summer was to complete preliminary research on my dissertation prospectus. The generosity of the SAI and its benefactors meant that I was able to do this, spread over six weeks this summer, in various archives in Calcutta, India. This summer research grant made it possible for me to travel to Calcutta to start my work. My project, simply defined, examines Indian intellectuals’ encounters with and response to Christianity in the nineteenth century – a relationship critical to understanding India’s secular modernity. These men and women played a decisive role in the creation of an Indian public sphere and led cosmopolitan lives with global networks of associates. I hoped to find repositories that would help me to critically engage with and understand these engagements and entanglements. My research-plan for this summer was meant to investigate three different aspects that led to this critical examination. The first was obtaining archival and primary sources on specific historical figures who were pioneers and participants in the various cultural and social reforms in India in the first part of the nineteenth century. While some of these figures, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, are very well known, many others like Rev. Krishna Mohan Banerjee and Rev. Lal Behari Dey, both Christian converts, who were extremely influential among the Indian intelligentsia of their own time, have been virtually forgotten. I also began initial efforts to track personal papers, diaries and letters in family repositories of Indian Christian convert families – these will, I hope, help me to understand better the lived lives and experiences of elite converts to Christianity in nineteenth century Bengal. My second objective was to investigate the role of newspapers and journals in the creation of a specific Indian public sphere or ecumene. During my work in the archives, I found journals and newspapers, both in English and in the vernacular languages, published by the native intelligentsia, which were invariably used as the ideological mouthpieces for different political and religious factions in Bengal. For example, the ‘Inquirer’, published by Rev. K.M. “My research this summer was deeply exciting and Banerjee and the Alexander Duff fulfilling, and has set me on the path to what I believe faction, was countered by the liberal will be a truly interesting and fascinating dissertation ‘Reformer’ published by Prosonno project.” Coomar Tagore, or later, the ‘Tattwabodhini Patrika’ published by the followers of Ram Mohun Roy, the Brahmo Samajists. Such arguments, in turn, were often commented upon by newspapers published by British proprietors and evangelicals, for example, ‘The Friend of India’ and the “Calcutta Christian Observer’. The National Library and the Center for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS) in Calcutta are veritable treasure houses of such rare newspapers and journals and I loved following the contemporary debates which were illuminating and gave me new insight into my project. I also came upon interesting linkages and threads, some of which I was able to follow up, with intriguing results, during the second part of my research trip in the British Library at London. I hope to write about these events, the debates they gave rise to and the role of the print media in facilitating these apologetics, in much greater detail in my dissertation. My third objective was to search and find material remains and sites of these debates and dialogues. To this end, I spent some time visiting and photographing churches, graveyards and now abandoned institution buildings. For example, I spent some time at Shibpur, photographing the ruined graveyard which houses the remains of K.M. Banerjee’s family and the closed-up neo- gothic style building which
was once the Bishopâ€™s College attended by the poet Michael Madhusudan Datta. In a way, these remains connected me to the past I hoped to research and write about in a far more immediate manner than the documents I read over in the archives. My research this summer was deeply exciting and fulfilling, and has set me on the path to what I believe will be a truly interesting and fascinating dissertation project. I now know much more about my timeperiod and actors, due to sustained archival work. I also have a much deeper and clearer understanding of what I intend to do with the archival resources I began to discover this summer. I am truly grateful for the unstinting support from the SAI and the many kindnesses I have received from its benefactors, members and staff. My work would not have been possible without their encouragement and support.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Eric Dunipace- Harvard School of Public Health Research on Traffic Accidents in Bangladesh Our driver sped along, honking as he barreled around a bicycle rickshaw at almost 50 miles per hour. From the radio, Shakira’s vocals blasted forth—driver’s choice—giving the trip a surreal soundtrack that was punctuated by staccato horn blasts as we narrowly missed a farm vehicle. “Brother,” he said in his smoker’s rasp. “Yes, Balal bai?” He glanced over from the road with a curious look in his eye. “Why have you come to Bangladesh?” Why had I come to Bangladesh? That was a question I was asked a lot, for some reason. When I told people that I had come to study and map traffic accidents, most nodded and said something like, “Yes, this is a big problem. I wish you luck,” by which they meant “You will not make any progress on this issue.” And for a time, I feared that they might be right. Initially, I had grand visions of looking through medical records to get an accurate count of traffic accidents. In the process, I thought to myself, I would singlehandedly revolutionize the face of road safety in Bangladesh. However, after meeting with a few groups working on road safety, I learned that this would at best be a Sisyphean task. Using patient information would involve traveling to thousands of health facilities and scanning through millions of paper medical records. I was crushed. Without a data source how would I map where traffic accidents were occurring? My answer came from Mridul Chowdhury, a Harvard alumnus and head of mPower Social Enterprises in Bangladesh. In addition to running a mobile health company, Mridul is also a film producer whose last movie was about traffic accidents. In the process of making the film, he met many people working on road safety, including researchers from the Accident Research Institute at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. This was the connection I had been waiting for. I was already familiar with the Accident Research Institute, or ARI, “Diving into the software was like my dive into because they were the sole source of Bangladesh: shocking and overwhelming.” online information about traffic accidents in Bangladesh. My previous attempts to contact them had gone unanswered but Mridul provided me the foot-in-the-door that I needed to set up a meeting with the heads of ARI. Overambitious once again, I began to imagine pulling their data into spreadsheets and mapping software and posting the results online. I would be done by July. As with most things in Bangladesh, I should have expected the unexpected. At my meeting with the heads of ARI I learned more about their data and its limitations. For example, the data that ARI uses actually comes from police reports collected from around the country. Once a year, the members of ARI go down to the central police head quarters and carry back all of the accident reports collected from the previous year. Then they begin the laborious process of entering each accident report into their database one by one. In total, the process takes about a year—just in time to begin it anew. As a symbol of the inefficiencies of the whole process, official government accident numbers are actually taken from the ARI reports, which are based on the individual accident reports collected by the government. Rather than control and improve the process of reporting accident data, the government is content to let an external organization do all
of the work. If not for ARI, the police accident data would be like the hospital records: scattered across the country and entirely on paper. Using ARI’s data would not prove to be easy, however. All of the accident information was locked in a unique software package that could not export the data in any other format. In fact, whenever the ARI needed to use their data they either printed a summary table directly from their program or manually entered the summary table into a separate document. For a project trying to map individual accidents, this would prove to be as difficult as copying individual records from the police. Despite these challenges, ARI helpfully gave me a copy of their software with their database locked somewhere deep, deep inside. “Good luck,” they said smiling, by which they meant, “You will not make any progress on this issue.” However, being young, naïve, and not just a little bit foolish, I through caution to the wind and dove headfirst into their software. Diving into the software was like my dive into Bangladesh: shocking and overwhelming. Bangladesh is a vibrant place, filled with strange sights and sounds and, most of all, a great number of people. And from my description above, my summer might seem like one long process of banging my head against a bureaucratic wall, which is not entirely true. I was able to get outside of the capital to see the “real” Bangladesh, an entirely different place from the choked streets of Dhaka. The black tar of two lane roads snake through the bright green rice paddies that dot the countryside. Everywhere I went tea, stands were ubiquitous as were people enumerable. Even a four hour drive outside of the capital, I was never alone and always an oddity for a crowd of people to gawk at. Sometimes a respite from the pollution-choked streets of Dhaka could be found inside the city limits. Lalbagh Fort located near Old Dhaka had large, wide open grounds with emerald grass and tall, lazy trees that provided shade from the hot Bengal sun. The place was beautiful and calming. Inside its grounds was the closest I came to finding a park inside of Dhaka. I would often think of that park as I sat with my head down on my keyboard, frustrated by the intractability of ARI’s software. Often when I tried to run their program on my computer, it crashed. Even when it did run, I still did not have a way to pull the data out as I had hoped. Growing ever more frustrated, I finally emailed the software manufacturer for guidance. The answer to my problem turned out to be mind-numbingly simple. After a short email exchange with the customer service representative from the software company, I had an attachment containing all of the accident data from Bangladesh for the last four years in a spreadsheet. I felt like crying with joy. Now that I am back home, beginning “I set out to do a straightforward map of accidents to actually map the data, I reflect back in Bangladesh but ended up on a journey where I on my experience. I set out to do a met many amazing people who care about this issue straightforward map of accidents in as much as I do.” Bangladesh but ended up on a journey where I met many amazing people who care about this issue as much as I do. In fact, some of them are working with me to design an intervention to care for victims of road traffic accidents and I would not have met any of them if not for my grant from SAI. I have learned a great deal about Bangladesh but also about the difficulties and realities of research. I would not consider this a loss because my trip took me where I needed to go but had not realized that I needed to be. I know that the project I began and the people I met will be with me for the rest of my life. So now when people ask me, “Why have you come to Bangladesh,” I can say, “Because there is nowhere else like it in the world. Because there is nowhere I can learn quite as much.” South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Adorée Durayappah – Harvard Divinity School Sinhalese Literature & Theravada Buddhist Studies in Kandy, Sri Lanka As a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School studying Buddhism, the opportunity to study Sinhalese Literature and Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka has already been a critical part of my education in my master program. Thanks to the generous support from Harvard South Asia Institute, I was able to travel to Kandy, Sri Lanka from May to June 2013. My program included a mix of language instruction, field education, and voluntary work teaching English at a local village school. My studies in Kandy began with several weeks of intensive classes in Sinhala Language continuing on to Sinhalese Literature. My Sinhala instructor was Mr. Bandara Herath. During the academic year Mr. Herath teaches Colloquial and Literary Sinhala at Cornell University. In the summer, he teaches at the South Asia Summer Language Institute (SASLI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I attended the SASLI Intensive Program in Colloquial Sinhala the summer of 2012 thanks to the support from Harvard South Asia Institute. My studies in Kandy progressed into early and pre-modern Sinhalese Literature including Upadeśa Kavya (Instructional Poetry), Sandeśa Kavya (Messenger Poetry), and the Sinhala Commentary (Sanna Commentary) of the Visuddhimagga, the Path of Purification by Buddhaghosa. My research in these texts revolved around the question of understanding “the good life” in various Buddhist contexts. This included not only the content of these texts but also how these texts are used in day-to-day life. My research included studying folk songs that incorporated these verses of Buddhist poetry or narratives. My field experience in Kandy, Sri Lanka provided context to these ancient texts by better understanding Buddhism as a lived religion in present-day Sri Lanka. By attending religious festivals such as sila precept observance and dhana ceremonies with my Sinhala instructor as well as living with a host family in Kandy, I was able to understand how individuals and communities engage with Buddhist texts. This provided me with an enriched context in which I was able to better understand the Sinhalese Buddhist poetry and literature that I was studying in the classroom. An important part of my education “My field experience in Kandy, Sri Lanka provided in Sri Lanka included teaching context to these ancient texts by better understanding English to second to fifth grade Buddhism as a lived religion in present-day Sri Lanka.” students at a rural village school in Kandy. This opportunity allowed me to better understand Buddhist practice as being an integral part of educational formation. In this way, I was able not only to study Sinhala language, narratives, and poetry but also to consider the ways in which lived practices and ethical practices are reproduced and generated in Sinhalese Buddhist societies. The ability to research Sinhalese Literature and Theravada Buddhism in lived context in Kandy, Sri Lanka has been a valuable educational experience that I will now be taking back with me as I continue my studies in Buddhism and begin my Master Thesis research at Harvard Divinity School.
T. Brandon Evans- GSAS, Film and Visual Studies Punjabi Language Study in Chandigarh, India With the help of the South Asia Institute this summer, I was able to participate in the Punjabi Summer Language Program (SLP) at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in Chandigarh, India. As a sound studies scholar, I am interested in intersections of sound, space, and culture. Over the past couple years, I have developed at interest in Sikhi (Sikhism). In a sound studies context, I am particularly interested in the soundscape of Sikh religious experience, the place of sound within Sikh religious thought and practice, and in the concept of Naad (universal sound current, a concept also found in Hindu philosophical traditions) as understood from a Sikh perspective. As the Punjabi language is intimately linked with Sikh religion and society, learning Punjabi was a necessary step to advance my ability to do further research in this area.
education beyond the classroom.
AIIS’s Summer Language Program was 8 weeks this year, which included a full 8 weeks of language classes and tutorials and trips to various sites in Punjab. I entered the program with no prior instruction in Punjabi, but was advanced to the Intermediate Level class after the first two weeks due to good performance in class. Beyond the 4 hours of class per day, I continued my language practice at home, living with a host family arranged by AIIS in Mohali, Punjab, a city adjacent to Chandigarh. I spent a lot of time with my host family–– taking walks in the park, going to gurdwara, watching TV, and (most importantly) eating–– all of which was invaluable as cultural
Though language study remained my primary goal and activity for my time in Chandigarh, I used some of my free time outside of school to develop my research interests in relation to my language learning. As a part of a sound recording practice, I took audio recordings of many places I visited, including a number of different gurdwaras (see below). I hope to edit “I spent a lot of time with my host family– these recordings into a larger field recording – taking walks in the park, going to piece addressing Sikh soundscapes in Punjab. gurdwara, watching TV, and (most Additionally, through AIIS, I got connected to a importantly) eating–– all of which was music school (Sri Guru Har Rai Ji Religious and invaluable as cultural education beyond Charitable Trust, Chandigarh) and took the classroom.” introductory harmonium lessons in the Sikh shabad kirtan tradition. I went for a 30-minute lesson every day after my language classes. In my language class, I performed a shabad (hymn) and wrote a short exegesis (in Punjabi) as my final term project. After returning to the US, I purchased a harmonium and hope to continue playing and learning new songs. While the harmonium lessons were not part of my original intention for the summer, they were an extremely enjoyable and valuable addition to my education and cultural experience. It was also good language practice, since the notation used Gurmukhi script, and since the music teacher did not speak very much English. While the music lessons were offered free of charge by the trust, I used some money given to my by the South Asia Instittue to give a donation to the Trust, which supports free music lessons for anyone and a number of other charitable initiatives in Chandigarh.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Trips with AIIS included visits to Amritsar and Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple), Khant (a village in Punjab), and Anandpur Sahib (site of Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, birthplace of the Khalsa order in Sihki). In addition to these, I also took weekend trips with other AIIS students to other cities in Punjab, including Ludhiana, Patiala (Gurudwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib), Faridkot, Malerkotla, Chamkaur Sahib, and Samana. I also visited Delhi for a few day by myself before my return flight. In addition to visiting general sites of cultural and historical significance in each of these places, I visited gurdwaras in all of these places as well as in Chandigarh and Mohali near where my host family lives. I also made sound recordings in as many of these places as possible, which I hope to edit into a larger piece. Entering as a beginner, I was proud to leave the program with a certificate in AIISâ€™s Intermediate Punjabi program. The program and the trip were both quite challenging in many ways, but the exposure and language skill engendered made me keen to continue researching Sikh soundscapes and to continue my engagement with Punjabi language.
Justin Fifield- GSAS, Study of Religion Manuscript Research at the National Archives of Nepal in Kathmandu, Nepal With the money provided by the SAI Research Grant I travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to carry out manuscript research at the National Archives of Nepal. I spent three weeks in Kathmandu and stayed in the city the entire time. During the first week, I read manuscripts on microfilm (see picture) and then placed an order for manuscript copies. The manuscript copies were extremely expensive - totaling over $1000 - because I am a foreigner. Most were simply xerox copies from microfilm, but two manuscripts were delivered in full color, digital photos. It took them the rest of my time there to process and complete the order. In addition to the National Archives, I also obtained manuscripts from the Asa Saphu Kuti (a local Newari library). The manuscripts were all copies of the Mahﾄ」astu, an early medieval Sanskrit Buddhist text that is the focus of my dissertation. I was not able to read any of the manuscripts in-country as they were not delivered until one day before I returned to the US. For the rest of my time I toured religious sites (Buddhist and Hindu) and met local scholars to discuss my project. In particular I became good friends with Professor Shankar Thapa of Tribhuvan University, who also does research on Buddhist manuscripts. This contact and friendship will be very beneficial in my career and personal life. I would like to sincerely thank the South Asia Institute, its director and staff, for the opportunity to travel to Nepal to carry out this research, which is vital to my dissertation project.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Roberto Fao- GSAS, Government Research on State Formation and State Capacity in Delhi, India With funds from the Harvard South Asia Instituteâ€™s research and study grant, this summer I was able to complete my dissertation research while based at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. The first aspect of data gathering, begun in April 2013 and completed over the following five months, was the compilation of a state by state dataset on bureaucratic responsiveness using experimental tests: I recruited research assistants to help design, translate and mail letter tests to state governments across India, asking for information relating to areas of civic interest, and then coded the responses according to the length of time taken by administrations to reply these enquiries, as well as the quality of the information provided. In filing such requests, this research took advantage of the 2005 Right to Information legislation and protocol, which requires public bodies in India to provide prompt answers to public requests on matters relating to citizenship and governance. The objective of these tests was to form a comparative measure for assessing the responsiveness and efficiency of state bureaucracies, similar, for example, to the measure developed by Putnam and colleagues in their landmark study of government effectiveness across Italy. Such a dataset is an important addition to the materials available for assessing quality of government in India: though similar methods have also been deployed, for example, by the Doing Business project of the World Bank in their sub-national report for India, that dataset covers only cities rather than states, and only nine cities, rather than a full sample from across the country. In addition, I used the summer to develop and pilot in selected cities a questionnaire to assess variation in the level of public order across Indian states, using observational data coded. Fieldworkers are asked to conduct a 60-minute walk from designated landmarks in selected towns and cities, and code each observation from a prompt which includes the prevalence of stray animals, waste left in roads and walkways, and graffiti, and in this way provide the raw data for comparisons of state and urban-level levels of public order and respect for public space. Finally, in explaining the observed variation in quality of government and public order across Indian states, I have been especially interested in the role played by a history of early state formation. Thus a final aspect to my summer in India has been the design of a dataset on state formation across the former princely states and territories of South Asia, by coding for example for different historical polities across the South Asian landmass, whether a bureaucracy existed separate from the court and the military, whether meritocratic criteria were deployed in the recruitment of the military and the civil service, or to scale the fiscal system. My key interest is the link between early state formation and the functioning of state-level institutions in India today; thus far the data shows an exceptionally strong link, and I have presented these results this year at international conferences in both Europe and the United States. â€œThe objective of these tests was to form a comparative measure for assessing the responsiveness and efficiency of state bureaucracies, similar, for example, to the measure developed by Putnam and colleagues in their landmark study of government effectiveness across Italy.â€?
Abbas Jaffer- GSAS, Social Anthropology Dissertation Research of Rock Musicians in Lahore, Pakistan Thanks to the generous support of the South Asia Institute Summer Research Grant, I was able to complete a field visit for my dissertation research on rock musicians in Lahore, Pakistan. My analysis centers on how the urban elite class background, mostly masculine-gendered space of musical production, and digital technology used to distribute their work impacts these artists’ everyday lives. For seven weeks I interviewed musicians, visited studios and homes and talked to observers of the popular music scene. Lahore is a fascinating place to do this research because it is held in high esteem as the cultural capital of the country, was the location of Pakistan’s first internet connectivity, and is highly segregated both in terms of gendered and socioeconomic difference. Music in Pakistan has played an important part in the nation’s history, and today’s biggest Pakistani bands have multiple audiences all around the world. Since 1947, Hindustani music performances have been broadcast and musicians have been flown around the world in order to showcase the country’s cultural heritage. In recent years the music show Coke Studio has been the most prominent showcase of popular bands, and my initial interest in this group of musicians arose as I noticed how much engagement Pakistani diaspora and Indian populations had with these shows and the bands they featured. I was particularly interested during “I gained much more background knowledge into this visit to get a better grasp of how the rise and fall of multiple record labels and the Pakistani music industry fit distributors, how Punjabi became the dominant together at present. I gained much language register of most popular music throughout more background knowledge into the the 1990s, and how media liberalization and rise and fall of multiple record labels increasing web access under General Musharraf and and distributors, how Punjabi became subsequent administrations has impacted bands in the dominant language register of the last decade.” most popular music throughout the 1990s, and how media liberalization and increasing web access under General Musharraf and subsequent administrations has impacted bands in the last decade. The musicians I spoke with frequently commented on how the prevalence of new technologies and platforms to share their work had created myriad new opportunities as well as challenges in how they connect to audiences. Government ambivalence of how to treat current popular music as part of Pakistani culture was another frequent topic, as bands are largely reliant on corporate sponsorships and recording for television drama soundtracks. With an affiliation as a visiting researcher at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), I was able to get a better sense of how to best conduct research in the city as well connect to students and faculty there with whom I plan on engaging during subsequent fieldwork. I also talked to people covering music in the media, including at Radio Pakistan, CityFM and The Express Tribune. Contrary to a lot of concerns from friends and family about safety issues, I found Lahore to be very navigable and felt at ease most of the time. My interviewees, new student and researcher friends were all welcoming and curious about how international perceptions of Pakistan compared to their own experiences. I continued to learn humility, patience and a lot of resilience from my interactions with them through the course of the summer. Having this summer to continue developing my project has led me to two important breakthroughs. The first is starting to perceive the daily ways in which musician’s perform for multiple audiences: their fans in-person and online, their families and their peer group. The most well-known musicians I talked to often underestimated the size and spread of their international audience. Another important realization I South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
had on this visit is just how important space and infrastructure is to how musicians carry out their work. Challenges include load-shedding of electricity, finding performances spaces, and tariff constraints on importing desired recording and production equipment. Daily realities of the industry include lending and borrowing equipment, building recording spaces piece by piece over time and relying on session musicians to complete tracks and albums. I am extremely grateful for the support of the South Asia Institute in continuing my research. Time spent building rapport with my in-country informants and obtaining secondary literature has been an invaluable part of creating a solid foundation for my dissertation fieldwork. Beyond the assistance in making my field visit possible, I have consistently found guidance, encouragement and intellectual engagement through SAI for my interests. I look forward to giving back to the intellectual community studying South Asia at Harvard that SAI has played such a central role in nurturing.
Ambika Kamath- GSAS, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Research on the South Asian Lizard Sitana ponticeriana in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India Last summer, with funding from SAI, I began studying the ecology of a common but poorly studied South Asian lizard, Sitana ponticeriana, collecting preliminary data from populations across its range. This year, I focused my efforts on a single location, but asked a more nuanced question about the social and reproductive behaviour of this lizard. India is teeming with people, and anthropogenic pressures on the environment are substantial. Yet we are only just beginning to understand how human-induced habitat change can affect the survival and persistence of plants and animals, knowledge that has the potential to inform decisions about how best to conserve these species and the ecosystems they inhabit. Sitana are remarkably adept at persisting in highly disturbed habitats, and I set about investigating whether and how the social and reproductive interactions of Sitana might differ between populations that live in forests and those that are found in disturbed habitats. Successful reproduction is crucial to a species’ persistence, and since the 1970s, ecologists have thought that an animal species’ reproductive behaviour can be affected by the type of habitat it lives in. The question of how Sitana’s reproduction is affected by a shift in habitat from forest to degraded site is therefore not only theoretically interesting but also of potential practical value. Along with my field assistant Divyaraj Shah, I mapped the territories of Sitana ponticeriana in a forest and an open grazing field near the village of Virani in Kutch, Gujarat. I had worked at this location last year, and hoped to return to the precise site I sampled previously. Unfortunately, a poor monsoon rainy season in 2012 led to a drastic drop in lizard densities in last year’s site. We therefore spent our first three weeks locating new sites. We finally found two excellent locations, and began by catching, marking, and measuring as many lizards as we could find. We then released the lizards to their original location, and began to measure their territories by re-spotting marked individuals and mapping the locations at which they were seen. This enabled us to quantify how much space each lizard used, what perches they used, and which lizards they interacted with. We caught and followed the habitat “We learnt about the nuanced interactions between use of 167 lizards. But I soon realised the environment, craft, and changing livelihoods, all that Sitana’s habitat use was far more of which are under threat from the one-dimensional, complex than I had anticipated. These industry-focused development strategy of the tiny lizards, with bodies about three current Gujarat government.” or four centimetres long, moved across areas that averaged 200 square metres! Moreover, different lizards seemed to adopt different strategies—while some lizards covered large areas by consecutively occupying and defending small spaces, others moved large distances at once. About three weeks before the onset of the monsoon and the end of the field season, I accepted that these lizards’ territorial behaviour was too complex to warrant the seemingly simplistic predictions I had made at the start of the study. I had expected to see differences in the territorial overlap of males and females between the forest and the grazing site, because of differences in habitat and resource structure between the sites. Not seeing these differences, I turned to a more fundamental question—what resources and features of the habitat drive the distribution of lizards? South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
We focused on measuring resources in the grazing site, to understand how Sitana can persist so well in an apparently resource-poor environment. We measured the presence and height of every piece of vegetation, dung, and rock along 22 random transects, and caught insects and measured soil type at 110 fixed points. I am in the process of analysing the relationships between lizard densities and the presence of these resources, and can report that ants, a primary component of the Sitana diet, comprise over 90% of the insects caught in the grazing site. This goes a long way in explaining how Sitana persists in this environment, and I am hopeful that spatial patterns in the data will reveal further details of what resources enable Sitana to thrive in humanimpacted habitats. Working in Kutch was wonderful. On our days off, we took trips to search for interesting wildlife, interact with local craftspeople, and visit nomadic camel herders. We learnt about the nuanced interactions between the environment, craft, and changing livelihoods, all of which are under threat from the one-dimensional, industry-focused development strategy of the current Gujarat government. I feel privileged to have studied Sitana in Kutch, and I am grateful to the South Asia Institute for funding this work. I will keep you posted on the publications that emerge from my research!
Krishna Venkata Matturi- Harvard Graduate School of Design Landscape Investigations of Waste Networks in Maldives With its deep blue skies, clear waters and white sandy beaches, Maldives enjoys a perfect setting for any visitor, or so it is portrayed. Recent reports by BBC on Maldives’ waste management problem and its changing political landscape made me dig deeper in to the island nation. To my surprise, what I found was a clear dearth of scholarship on Maldives and its current problems barring some instances of Tsunami cleanup. Summer provided a great opportunity, especially during when the country was approaching the democratic elections only for the second time in the history. A generous funding from South Asia Institute facilitated my field trip. I was excited to see the exotic nature of the country, its culture and the extent of the waste problem that it is facing. What I witnessed was certainly something extraordinary that has never been written or published! As the aircraft descends down on the newly remodeled Hulhule International Airport, the sight of tiny islands located within close proximity resembles lotus leaves in pond. Slowly the dense urban fabric of the capital city of Malé approaches closer and closer. Immediately, the attention is grabbed by a thick grey ash emanating from an island next to the capital. The initial thought that crosses our minds is ‘out of place’. Malé is one of the densest islands on earth with population close to 200,000 within an area of 2.2 sq miles. Unsurprisingly, the dense urban fabric closely resembles its South Asian neighbors. However, with its 30,000 motorcycles crowding the busy narrow streets surrounded by the Indian Ocean on all sides, with each part of the shore performing unique duties to feed the capital, Malé is anything but a typical South Asian city. The very first look of the main streets makes one feel how immaculate the city is in handling its garbage. A few days into my stay, the compactness of the city helped reveal its multiple layers hidden in it. The smoke that blurred my vision during my arrival was in fact the ‘Waste Island’ that handles the trash generated in Malé. Every day trash is ferried to the island on the barges to keep Malé clean. Thilafushi, the ‘Waste Island’ is a sight to behold. When I finally got the chance to visit the island, I was astounded by the sheer scale and size of an island created solely by dumping trash in to the ocean. To top that, the reclaimed ‘land’ now is also used to produce methane gas and boat making industry. It takes no expert to notice the precarious conditions that exist on the island and the danger it poses to the sensible coral reef ecosystem of Maldives. One can witness the direct contact of sea with heavy metals of trashed batteries, medical waste and plastic. Trash dumped is openly burnt on site. However, even more worrying aspect of the island is that it is inhabited by close to 2,000 immigrant workers employed by the industry. It only needed a few hours of exposure to the poisonous gases on the island for me to experience dizziness and nausea. The health and safety of these workers is an open question to be answered. “Thilafushi, the ‘Waste Island’ is a sight to behold. When I finally got the chance to visit the island, I was astounded by the sheer scale and size of an island created solely by dumping trash in to the ocean.”
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
After collecting useful information from the Politicians, Public Officials, Non-profit organizations and the international organizations, both UN and the World Bank, I was on my way to witness the conditions on smaller islands across the country. As with any other island nation, travelling between islands of Maldives was not a smooth affair. Although there were quicker means of travel using sea planes operated between resorts, the cost was prohibitively high. The first island I visited using a government operated ferry service, was the one that was touted as the ‘model island’ for waste management: Ukulhas. Beach is called Gon'dudhoh or Athiri in Divehi, the native language of Maldives. They roughly translate to ‘place to throw stuff’ or ‘toilet’ indicating the significance of sea shore in local culture. For centuries, waste was thrown in to the ocean. Waste dumping in to the open ocean is still widely practiced across the nation. This was also the primary reason that culminated in creation of Thilafushi in early 1990s. Ukulhas is a small island of population close to 1,000 and is located in Northern Ari Atoll 80km west of the capital Malé. With the help of a strong local leadership, governance and general support from the central government, Ukulhas was able to bring villagers to understand the need of managing the waste and the dangers of throwing it to the sea. Now, almost all of the domestic waste is treated internally. Ukulhas is now touted as the model to be replicated throughout the nation. The conditions in Southern Ari Atoll, where my next stop was, were remarkably different from Ukulhas. Fenfushi, another island village comparable to the size of Ukulhas, uses island trash to reclaim land. The local leadership, however, is mainly concerned with issues of contaminated ground water, harbor protection and coastal erosion. When the question of connection between these issues with the waste treatment was posed there was a remarkable agreement but lack of enthusiasm to agree on waste as a central one. Similar conditions existed in Dhidhdhoo a much smaller island with a population of only 180 that practices open burning. After visiting close to 6 different islands and meeting a number of stakeholders, I started to summarize the information collected over a two week period, sitting in my hotel room overlooking an ‘artificial beach’ in Malé. As I flipped through my notes I began to realize the true nature of problem in Maldives. It certainly wasn’t the waste. Waste was my point of entry to a much larger problem. As Maldives’ economy moved away from fishing and subsistence agriculture to tourism based one, the society increasingly became an import based one. Every material product is imported to the country. Even fish are exported to other countries to be processed and imported back. Vegetables and Fruits used to grow on community farms on the islands managed by voluntary women’s committees when men were at sea fishing. They are now virtually extinct due to the change in the labor force from fishing to resorts. Although material, goods and resources are imported, the facilities to recycle them are not, due to the economies of scale resulting in accumulation of waste from packaging. One good example is the disposable diapers. No good method or plan exists to treat or dispose the diapers in a country where there is no restriction on number of children based on religious laws. As the problem was reframed in my mind, I started to draw the networks of material flows in and out of the Maldives, the once paradise nation, now facing threat - not from rising sea levels but from floating trash. The findings of the research will be presented at Spaces and Flows: International Conference on Urban and ExtraUrban Studies this November at University of Amsterdam.
Andrew McDowell- GSAS, Department of Anthropology Dissertation Research on TB and Patient Care in Rajasthan, India My summer experience was rather dissimilar to the one I planned. I was, however, able to fill some of the gaps previous fieldwork left for my dissertation. I filled three major gaps. First, I was able to get a better sense of the type and nature of the pharmaceutical flows as they exist in my field site, second I was able to trace and interview members of a dense set of social networks and local moral strategies used by state employed nurses, and last I was able to complete a now two-year longitudinal study of TB patients. These three accomplishments must, of course, be placed in the context of my dissertation project; alone they seem rather disparate. My dissertation takes a smallish sample of TB patients in south-east Rajasthan and follows their experience as they seek care. As TB sufferers they interact both with state forms of care like local nurses and more unwieldy international interventions, as well as non-state actors like private physicians, untrained biomedical practitioners, spiritual healers, possession mediums, herbalists and other naturopathic specialists. I look to these pathways to get a sense, not just of the ways TB affect the subjectivity of the sufferer, but to get a better sense of TB as a social “I look to these pathways to get a sense, not form and aspect of social suffering— just of the ways TB affect the subjectivity of particularly one acted on by the state as well the sufferer, but to get a better sense of TB as as the sufferer and a myriad of non-state a social form and aspect of social suffering— actors. In doing so, I hope to understand particularly one acted on by the state as well forms of sociality emerging in twenty-first as the sufferer and a myriad of non-state century India, looking at ways changes in actors.” political theology and economic philosophy have affected social forms like illness, class, caste, rural/urban, and ideas like aspiration, success, well-being, and development. The work this summer then has followed nearly 6 years of engagement and a year of intensive fieldwork. Why then do each of these three accomplishments matter? First to the pharmaceuticals; pharmaceutical interventions continue to dominate ways of relating to an ill body. However in the Indian context we don’t much understand how, where, and by what channels pharmaceuticals reach rural India. In a country with more flexible practices of access to pharmaceuticals these substances enter and change hands with more frequency. This summer I followed pharmaceuticals from their source in major cities right down to the patients that took them. I followed pharmaceuticals as they left on transports to smaller cities and then came to wholesalers in even smaller towns from which they left by various means to pharmaceutical shops, formal private doctors, and informal biomedical practitioners, were directly administered by wholesalers, or retailed directly to patients. I was able to follow them one step further to informal practitioners’ shops and patients all the while keeping an eye on where these informal practitioners came to acquire knowledge about their properties, dose, and best practices. Second I spent time with state employed nurses at a local health post. This summer was a time of upheaval within the health sector as is common in rural India. A common refrain I heard in earlier fieldwork, “we have no power to change the system, we are not permanent employees,” had finally changed. In June 2013, the rural health mission staff in Rajasthan moved form a contract basis to permanent government employment. I was able follow the changes and effects of such permanent status on the nurses, with an eye to their attendance at work, their treatment of patients, and their willingness to invest in their health post. I watched as they moved through the processes of becoming permanent. I followed through the interview process as well as the attendant marshalling of evidence toward their quality from local sources. This gave insights into just how important TB sufferers have become not just South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
in the setting up of the quality of healthcare, but as well in the nurseâ€™s ideas of their own quality. The work also gave me a sense of the importance of bribes, connections and the quest to find a contact within the health bureaucracy with enough power to organize a favorable transfer. Finally, I was able to follow up with the TB sufferers I had followed until January 2013. I met with nine informants for three meetings each and asked about their complete or nearly complete experience with TB treatment. I was able to measure default and success, as well as monitor for pharmaceutical success and failure. Whatâ€™s more, I was able to watch subjectivity flow full circle and try to discern a change or return to pre-TB subjectivities as well as relationship to the state. I was astounded to meet informants who had quite systematically gone back to their old lives while others experienced changes not just within themselves but also in their relationship to the state, their neighbors, labor and the body. Indeed these interviews were excellent data and will help answer important question about the effects of TB on the relationship between self and body, state and citizen. In short it was a fast-paced summer, which turned out rather differently than I had expected. Nonetheless it was extremely productive and allowed me to add both rich data to my existing set as well patch holes in a dissertation which will make important interventions in our understanding of rural India and illness in a moment of change.
Tyler Neill- GSAS, South Asian Studies Prakrit, Jain and Language Pedagogy Studies in Pune, India This summer, I made inroads into the field of Prakrit and Jain studies, and I also participated in a Spoken Sanskrit course. By doing so, I was able to further explore my interests in language pedagogy and consider new directions for philological research. The two-month stay in Pune, for an AIIS intensive Prakrit program, was my first in India, and as such I had no shortage of personal challenges. However, all things considered, I had a great deal of academic and social support, and I consider the time there to have been a complete success. My teachers were both university-level teachers and independent scholars/Jain practitioners, who introduced me to new ways of reading and studying. My peers were students from American universities (although themselves not all American), most of whom were seriously pursuing advanced Sanskrit studies and so were happy to discuss their interests. Of the twenty or so there, only one other student did Prakrit with me, while most of the others did the Sanskrit program (much of which was effectively spoken Sanskrit), and some did Marathi. Not surprisingly, the Sanskrit and Prakrit students gravitated together, and I was very pleased with the amount of interaction I had with the others, as I was eager to meet people and to compare the Sanskrit instruction there with what I would soon be experiencing in Germany. Academically, then, this was an invaluable opportunity to think out loud with other young scholars in the field, make friends through difficult circumstances, and further reflect on my own motivations and interests in my degree program at Harvard. I left India much more encouraged about my studies than when I came. Culturally, I enjoyed gaining first-hand experience of India, after years of mostly reading ancient texts. I welcomed the little, day-to-day projects concerned with securing this or that mundane necessity, like food, water, and books, as that was what usually brought about unexpected adventures. I bought and wore some traditional South Asian clothing, only to realize that the local men were mostly wearing shirts and trousers. I saw a precious few touristy sights, and the Dalai Lama even came to give a talk, which we students enjoyed together. But also, I was several times invited to my teachers' houses, and I occasionally made spontaneous friendships with people around town: shopkeepers, rickshaw-wallahs, or one time, in the waiting room of the Ayurvedic doctor's office, a young college student, who proceeded to give me an unforgettable moped ride across town. There are far too many experiences to list, many of which were none too easy, either emotionally or physically, but I'm happy to have come through and learned from it all. Also, it was satisfying to practice and develop my Hindi skills; although I do not consider myself primarily a student of modern India, still it was great fun interacting with people in their languages and being inspired to learn more, insofar as it may pertain to my future research (e.g. perhaps Marathi or Gujarati, which go hand-in-hand with Prakrit studies). I did indeed find myself intellectually very engaged. When not struggling with mundane needs, I spent most of my time reading various kinds of Prakrit, such as Mahārāṣṭrī stories, Apabhraṃśa poetry, Śaurasenī dramatic dialogue, and canonical verses in Ārdha-Māgadhī—all mostly pertaining to Jainism. Sometimes I even composed in Prakrit, including a few short stories and verses, which was great fun and very rewarding. On occasion, we two Prakrit students were able to connect with other local scholars and their projects, including visits to the Sanmati Teerth Institute for Prakrit and Jainology, the Sanskrit South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Dictionary Project at Deccan College, and the Prakrit Dictionary Project at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (shown here: picture 3). In this way, I was able to think about how I'd like philology and perhaps even lexicography to factor into my doctoral work, and I could appreciate what opportunities there are for new and useful work in these fields. I've also brought home considerable printed material, which I hope may help me in exciting my peers, Harvard and otherwise, about Prakrit studies. In short, I can't imagine any other way in which I could have gained so much knowledge about India and about these textual fields of study in so short a time. The environment, and especially the other AIIS students, enabled a tremendous rate of learning, of all sorts. Finally, two elements of the Pune program were particularly exciting for me and were a natural segue into the following month in Germany. These were, one, the singing of Sanskrit and Prakrit verse, and, two, witnessing Sanskrit being spoken at length. Firstly, I found that singing the short verses, or subhāṣitas brought about new levels of appreciation for Sanskrit meter, vocabulary, and the genre of aphorism. In that mnemonic pattern, I see much potential, for both myself and others, for more effectively and enjoyably learning Sanskrit. And secondly, while there was virtually no speaking of Prakrit in my own classroom, we Prakrit students were on occasion allowed to observe the Sanskrit students and teachers in action, which made me quite eager to start speaking it myself. “I spent the summer soaking up cultural experiences, overcoming personal challenges, further meditating on the centrality of language study in my research interests, and deepening my enthusiasm for Sanskrit studies.”
And speak it I did, in Heidelberg, Germany, in my third and final month of the summer (a late addition to the original plan). The teacher, Dr. Sadananda Das, has honed his skills teaching Sanskrit to Europeans for well over a decade, and the opportunity to learn from him was absolutely invaluable. Being myself relatively advanced in the class, I used my extra time to make additional strides in expanding my vocabulary (probably a thousand new words in a few short weeks) and in understanding and memorizing dozens of subhāṣita verses, which Dr. Das was particularly keen to feature in his pedagogy. He also used many other innovative and interesting methods, some of which I will gladly incorporate into my time with beginning Sanskrit students this coming year, when I'll serve as a teaching assistant under Dr. Alex Watson. These methods included: discussing everyday matters and objects, correlating spoken words with visible gestures, writing stories, making Skype phone calls, reading comic books, singing songs, and enacting a play—all in Sanskrit. The students—mostly European and East Asian—were also a treat to interact with, and despite the absence of a difficult physical environment, we still became rather close. I left Heidelberg even more inspired and energetic to continue with my own studies. In sum, I spent the summer soaking up cultural experiences, overcoming personal challenges, further meditating on the centrality of language study in my research interests, and deepening my enthusiasm for Sanskrit studies. I hope the knowledge I've gained of the Sanskrit and Prakrit languages, and of India, will be useful to those around me in the coming years, and I feel very privileged and grateful to have been entrusted with the task of exploring and bringing back these perspectives.
Charlotte Page- Harvard Medical School Research on Biomass Fuel Use and Anemia in Pregnancy in Nagpur, India With the support of a South Asia Institute grant, I spent seven weeks this summer conducting research in Nagpur, India. My project consisted of a secondary data analysis to determine whether the use of biomass fuel is associated with anemia in pregnant women in Nagpur. Anemia in pregnancy is very common in developing countries – for example, the prevalence in my study population is about 90% – and is associated with adverse outcomes for mother and child. Meanwhile, biomass fuel (wood, straw, crop residues, or dung) is used by the majority of Indian households for their energy needs. An association between exposure to biomass fuel smoke and anemia has been shown in recent studies in children but, prior to my research, had not been studied in pregnant women. To investigate this topic, I analyzed data that was collected by the Lata Medical Research Foundation (LMRF), Nagpur as part of a large, ongoing, NIH-sponsored study called the Maternal and Newborn Health Registry Study (MNH). The MNH collects data on pregnant women at primary health centers and subcenters – facilities that are part of India’s government-run health care system – in villages surrounding Nagpur. I spent most of my time in Nagpur conducting my analysis at the LMRF office, but I also had the opportunity to visit a handful of the health facilities where the MNH data are collected. Being on-site at LMRF rather than conducting my analysis from Boston benefitted my research in numerous ways. First, the opportunity to speak with the data entry team at LMRF and to observe some of the data collection process in the health facilities directly improved the quality of my study; for example, it helped me understand what the limitations of my data are and how to define my study population (a crucial step in epidemiological research like mine). Second, my visits to villages were eyeopening and educational. I gained an appreciation for the intricacies of organizing and implementing a large community health study like the MNH. I learned about India’s universal health care system, including where and by whom it’s provided, which was of great interest to me as a medical student. The health facilities I visited look very different from those in the U.S.! I also had the privilege of visiting a couple homes with chulas, traditional wood cookstoves, which are the primary source of biomass smoke in my study population. Although I didn’t get to see the chulas in action, I could sense how much smoke they must produce from the soot stains on the surrounding walls. I completed my analysis in Nagpur, and interestingly, my results confirmed my hypothesis: use of biomass fuel is a risk factor for anemia in pregnancy, even after correcting for other risk factors for which data were available. Back in Boston this fall, I will work on writing up my findings for submission to a peer-reviewed medical journal. I hope to apply my summer and future work on this project toward fulfilling Harvard Medical School’s scholarly project requirement. In addition to being fruitful for my research project, my summer in Nagpur was an enjoyable and interesting cultural experience. I stayed with a well-off, elderly couple who are friends of my on-site research mentor. They were excellent hosts; I ate dinners with them and they took me various places in Nagpur. I also enjoyed getting to know my coworkers at LMRF: at lunch, we not only shared our food – as is their custom – but also traded tidbits about Indian and American culture. My motivations for traveling to Nagpur this summer were two-fold: 1) to start work on my scholarly project, and 2) to return to India, which I fell in love with while volunteering in an eye clinic there in 2010. I succeeded in both of these goals; I had a valuable experience both academically and culturally. I sincerely thank the South Asia Institute for providing me with this wonderful opportunity. South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
James Reich- GSAS, Committee on the Study of Religion Dissertation Research on Ruyyaka at Cornell University My summer spent at Cornell University in upstate New York proved invaluable to the research I am doing on my dissertation. Professor Larry McCrea, formerly of Harvard and now teaching at Cornell, spent a very generous amount of time helping me with my research, and I made progress that I would not have been able to make without him, and consequently would not have been able to make without a generous grant from Harvard's South Asia Institute. My dissertation is a biography of an intellectual named Ruyyaka, who lived in 12th century Kashmir. Ruyyaka's oeuvre is concerned with literary theory, and through a series of texts Ruyyaka attempted to explain what literature is, how it works, how emotions are communicated by the language of poems, and the different ways that poems can be shaped, improved, or marred by language and rhetorical figures. Ruyyaka's works are part of a long tradition of Sanskrit literary theory; one which, with few exceptions, is usually studied independently of other Indian intellectual traditions. However, many of the terms and concepts used by Ruyyaka, and by his main rivals, are borrowed directly from religious literature, and religious philosophers, both Buddhist and Hindu, are often quoted as authorities in the works. Since I believe this relationship is understudied, my dissertation will attempt to place these works in their wider religious context, and show how religion influenced them, and how they exhibit theological tendencies in unexpected ways. In working on this project, the main obstacle I faced last year was the state of scholarship on Ruyyaka's works themselves. Ruyyaka wrote nine different texts that we know of, only five of which are still extant. Of these five works--long expositions in a difficult and scholarly style of Sanskrit--none have been translated into English, and very few have been the subject of any scholarly research. In order to make progress on my dissertation, it was necessary to read and translate from Sanskrit all of the work that Ruyyaka did in his life, and to do so without a body of scholarly literature to help me understand the issues at play in his works: a large task, and one with which I needed help. “In order to make progress on my dissertation, it was necessary to read and translate from Sanskrit all of the work that Ruyyaka did in his life, and to do so without a body of scholarly literature to help me understand the issues at play in his works: a large task, and one with which I needed help.”
Professor Larry McCrea, who also writes on the intellectual history of literary theory in India, has long had an interest in Ruyyaka, and agrees with me that this important historical figure has been overlooked for too long. In Ithaca this summer, Professor McCrea very graciously spent hours each week reading through Ruyyaka's texts line by line with me, helping me understand the language as well as the references the texts contain to other ideas or figures. He gave me critical feedback on my interpretation of the texts and their significance, and he helped me find other literature, both primary and secondary, to read through for my project. One way this helped me immensely was that it allowed me to make enough progress to disprove many of my earlier hypotheses and come to better ones. So, for example, in Ruyyaka's work on rhetorical figures, Alaṃkārasarvasva, Ruyyaka uses a strange conceptual schema to organize his list of the figures. This schema is based around terms and ideas that were important in religious contexts; many of them were central to the ways that Buddhists and Hindus rationalized and justified their religious systems.
Because of this, I had originally thought that “This kind of experience was unpleasant at the conceptual schema was borrowed first – feeling like I was going backwards directly from these religious traditions, and rather than forwards - but it was an essential that Ruyyaka was taking an implicit stand on part of making progress, as it allowed me to religious debates in his work. Larry helped re-think my project and find better, more me see that this conceptual schema did not accurate interpretations of the works and hold conscious religious significance for their significance.” Ruyyaka himself--it is not borrowed from religious texts, but rather from an earlier theorist of language who used the same schema to explain the difference between literal and metaphorical modes of speech. So in this respect my theory was wrong. However, my work this summer also revealed that the commentators on Ruyyaka's text often refer explicitly to religious issues in their explication of it, showing that Ruyyaka's theories, whether he liked it or not, had strayed into the realm of theology, and raised important theological questions that needed to be answered in order for the implications of the text to be fully unfolded. This kind of experience was unpleasant at first-feeling like I was going backwards rather than forwards--but it was an essential part of making progress, as it allowed me to re-think my project and find better, more accurate interpretations of the works and their significance. Another great boon of the summer was the crucial experience it gave me reading Sanskrit. I have been studying Sanskrit for six years, and have even taught it, but last year my Sanskrit was still not quite good enough to really study Ruyyaka's texts on my own. However, with Professor McCrea's help I was able to make an important leap, and finally familiarize myself enough with the language, and with Ruyyaka's particular style, that I now find I can continue the summer's work on my own, with much more ease. Finally, access to the Cornell library proved important to me, as it holds more than a few interesting volumes that Harvard's library is lacking, but which are relevant to my project. Access to Ithaca's extensive system of waterfalls and outdoor swimming holes also aided my research, providing much needed relief from the summer heat, and from hours in the library making important and enjoyable progress on this project.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Benjamin Siegel- GSAS, History Dissertation Research on Food, Hunger and Nation-Building in Delhi, India In July and August 2013, with the generous support of the South Asia Institute and the Harvard History Department, I undertook a final six weeks of dissertation research. My work in Bombay and Delhi was instrumental to my completing “The Hungry State: Food, Hunger, and Nation-Building in India, 19431966,” a project which posits debates over food procurement, provision, and hunger as the key economic and social contestations structuring the Indian state. This project will be completed in spring 2014, first as a Ph.D. thesis, and then as a book manuscript. Written from archival sources in English, Hindi, and Urdu over the past six years, my project interrogates a pivotal era of contentious disagreement over India’s inability to feed its growing population. Going beyond high political narratives, I juxtapose the visions of Jawaharlal Nehru and other statesmen against those advanced by party organizers, scientists, housewives, journalists, bureaucrats, and international development workers. Examining their promises and plans – and the global contexts in which they were made – I explain how India’s “food question” mediated fundamental arguments over citizenship, governance, and the proper relationship between individuals and the state. Over the past several years, thanks in part to the South Asia Institute (and formerly, the South Asian Initiative), I have been able to amass a voluminous set of working materials drawn from both traditional and non-traditional repositories. Government documents, published books, newspapers, pamphlets, popular literature, radio addresses, satire, and the public and private writings of agronomists, bureaucrats, economists and activists have helped me interrogate the political, social, and economic possibilities and constraints were being contested via the food question. SAI funding has been instrumental to my consulting materials held in New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Calcutta, and London. This summer, I used the funding generously offered by the South Asia Institute and other sources to return to several archives in New Delhi and Mumbai, while examining several new repositories. The plurality of my time was spent in the private papers held by the Nehru Memorial Museum in New Delhi, a superlative private collection which houses the correspondence and other papers of many of India’s nationalist leaders. While returning to several collections which I had consulted in the past – including those of India’s first several food and agriculture ministers, and statesmen and politicians who opined widely on the food problem – I had the opportunity to delve deeply into new collections, including those of Indian social organizers and representatives of the nation’s developing business interests. The latter material in particular represented a domain which I had largely left uninterrogated during previous research visits to India, but let me see how the voice of industry fed into the debates over food animating political contestations in the mid twentieth-century. I was also able to begin my work on two major, unsealed collections which require special permission to access, setting the stage for future research visits, and to begin work on my second major project, on the history of expertise as a political category in postcolonial South Asia. I was also able, this summer, to begin work in several private collections in India (the specifics of which I am unable to disclose prior to publication). This work built upon several years of research in identifying these collections and securing access. Such materials will help me flesh out a story which is complementary to and often complicates the narrative that state and institutional archives suggest. I remain grateful for the generous and irreplaceable support that SAI has provided me throughout the course of my doctoral research, and would be immensely gratified for this final research grant to facilitate the completion of my dissertation. Funding is often difficult for late-stage doctoral candidates to secure, and SAI’s willingness to help fund this research was vital at an important stage in the completion of my work.
Anand Vaidya- GSAS, Social Anthropology Dissertation Research on India’s Field Rights Act in Uttar Pradesh, India In July and August of 2013, I conducted research in Delhi and in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, with the support of a South Asia Institute Research Grant. In Delhi, I carried out interviews with politicians and activists who had been involved in the drafting of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, the subject of my dissertation. In Sonbhadra, I visited Ramnagar, the village in which I conducted my dissertation research from 2010 to 2012. Ramnagar’s villagers are seeking land rights through the Forest Rights Act, which still have not been granted. The villagers are currently living on the land without rights, and I found that a second illegal village had recently been established on the eastern edge of Ramnagar, with the support of the Forest Department, by groups that are also seeking land rights through the Forest Rights Act. Despite the fact that neither Ramnagar’s villagers nor the residents of the new village have formal rights yet, I found that the Forest Rights Act has continued to act as justification for the establishment of new settlements, themselves in this case in conflict with one another.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
William Lewis- Harvard Medical School Medical Device Innovation with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India It’s strange to me what a difference the journey makes. You can learn a great deal about a country on paper, but without being there, you’ll never begin to understand. It’s the pulse of life, the smells, the sounds, the feelings in your gut, which seem to define a place and make it real. In India, it’s the smells of exhaust and mangoes and animal excrement and the growl of un-muffled motors. It’s the car and scooter and rickshaw horns that uncaringly and unceasingly announce their presence to nobody in particular. It’s roosters crowing and cows mooing as the sun starts into the sky. It’s the sharpness cold bucket showers. It’s the feeling of bodies pushing past you in a crowd, and embarrassment at walking on the right side again. It’s having your head down to watch the sidewalk for the deep holes that crop up every few steps.
It’s also the shame of coming from so much and seeing a slice of the world that has so little. It’s a sadness that comes over you when you see a group of men lying on the sidewalk at a busy intersection, looking thin and tired. It’s knowing that with the right skills and a little time, someone can – and needs to – make a difference. I thank the South Asia Institute for recognizing the importance of this sort of first-hand experience and for making it possible for me to start to understand what it means to live, and to face health issues, in India. I was generously sent to India by SAI with the aim of prototyping low-cost medical devices for the Indian market. I was the lone medical student on a team of nine; accompanying me were two undergraduate computer science students from Harvard, two undergraduate Harvard engineers, and four graduate design students from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore. “It’s the pulse of life, the smells, the sounds, the feelings in your gut, which seem to define a place and make it real.”
Our project began by observing care at a number of sites around Bangalore, including high-end private hospitals, charity hospitals, ambulance services, private rural health clinics, public health centers, and even IISc’s student health services. The time spent in these settings for “needs-finding” was invaluable; doctors introduced us to the challenges they faced while simultaneously giving us a crash course in India’s broader healthcare needs. Watching healthcare workers perform procedures offered us the sort of direct interaction with shortcomings in existing devices or techniques that could never be obtained by reviewing literature at a desk in another country.
In addition to its value in generating ideas for our project, these three weeks of observation left a mark on me, personally. I had read about lymphatic filariasis in my first year of medical school, but until I saw it, in my first week of hospital observations in Bangalore, it wasn’t real to me. On the pages of a textbook, each disease is as miserable as the one that comes before it. Standing in the operating theatre of St. John’s hospital, watching for hours as the surgeons performed an above-the-knee amputation of a woman’s leg while the power flicked out, as the woman lay awake – sedated, but awake – the disease became real and tragic and frustrating like never before. How had this woman’s case gotten so bad? If she had been able to receive treatment years earlier, she might have kept her leg. Now it was too late. After the initial stage of observation and needs-finding, the rest of the summer was spent living and working on campus at IISc with our faculty mentor, B. Gurumoothy, to refine our understanding of the observed problems and think about developing useful solutions. We split into two teams and worked through an iterative design process on two projects. The team of which I was a part focused on “I had read about lymphatic filariasis in my first the problem of delivering emergency year of medical school, but until I saw it, in my manual suction for airway clearance, first week of hospital observations in removal of amniotic fluid during delivery, Bangalore, it wasn’t real to me.” and removal of blood from the surgical field. At numerous site visits, we had seen damaged suction machines or heard doctors complain that they were unable to perform certain procedures on-site, such as tracheostomy tube removal, due to lack of suction equipment. We also heard the complaint that during the hours of the day when the clinics were without power, the devices were useless. A review of the existing manually powered devices revealed that the most popular models were overpriced, at around 3200 rupees, and suffered from a host of design flaws. For under 300 rupees (five U.S. dollars), our team of two IISc students and three Harvard students built a prototype of an offthe-grid suction apparatus that meets the nominal pressure and flow requirements of these procedures while offering improvements in cost, ergonomics, and safety. Moving forward, we hope to refine the prototype in Boston and look at manufacturing and scaling costs. Along the way, each team member learned a bit from the others about a new field, be it design, engineering or medicine. More importantly, we forged deep friendships, mutual respect and cultural appreciation. Even as I write this report, I am simultaneously corresponding with our IISc team members, who are planning the development of another medical device as part of their final design project. I am extremely grateful to the South Asia Institute for their support this summer. In this case, SAI supported more than the development of a low-cost medical device; it has facilitated the connection of countries and the development of relationships, and has altered the course of my life forever. South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
OMIDYAR GRANT FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN SOUTH ASIA SAI, in partnership with the Omidyar Network, awards the Grant for Entrepreneurship in South Asia to students to pursue projects that provide entrepreneurial solutions to social and economic problems in South Asia. Proposals considered for funding include projects that immerse students in the problems of our generation in South Asia and present innovative entrepreneurial attempts towards its solutions. Read more about past projects here: http://southasiainstitute.harvard.edu/omidyar-grant-for-innovativesolutions/ GROWLANKA Inesha Premaratne – 2015, Government, Harvard College Ishani Premaratne – 2015, Anthropology, Harvard College Casimira Karunaratne – 2015, English, Harvard College Location: Vavuniya, Sri Lanka The streets of Vavuniya in the isolated region of northern Sri Lanka no longer bear signs of the brutal civil war it once stood at the frontier of. Aside from the occasional land mine warning or makeshift war memorial placed along the road, this small town now bears only the signs of a slow, but determined return to normalcy. Indeed, many of the factory workers and field hands we spoke to would tell us that even during the war it was like this. Despite the fact that open hostilities ended in 2009 and overt terror has since disappeared, this tiny town is still in many ways as anachronistic as it was before, barren of the technological and infrastructure-related innovations that have bolstered the rest of the nation’s economy. A former border town between Tamil rebel owned territory and that overseen by the Sinhalese government, Vavuniya is still home to refugees from the war. Further, unemployment is rife—and remains one of the most significant challenges preventing the region from experiencing new growth and development in the aftermath of the war. Economic woes trigger discontent, and in a postwar region, officials fear that this will reignite old ethnic tensions. Amidst all of this, our mission as three Harvard undergraduates was in large part to help quell a fire that hadn’t even started yet by continuing our work on our social venture, GrowLanka, in the local communities that need it most. GrowLanka is an innovative mobile job alerts system that connects information about local job openings to jobseekers who otherwise do not have access to this information. We are thankful for the generous support of the Omidyar Network and the Harvard South Asia Institute, without which our continuation of this project—now two years running—would not have been possible. Starting with each family that we interviewed about what solution would most help them, we traveled around Vavuniya and neighboring villages as we worked to ensure that job openings would no longer go unfilled merely because no one knew about them. We spent May and June working with a developer in Sri Lanka. Our primary challenge was getting the SMS gateway we would need from a mobile carrier in the country. Here we ran up against the bureaucracy of a major telecom corporation and the challenges of identifying the right person to talk to in order to push our project through. It was a conversation that was supposed to take a week—unfortunately, it took much longer than that, showing us firsthand that even the best laid plans will often meet unexpected challenges. The rest of the summer
was spent developing and refining our system, and thinking strategically about the user elements that would make for a clean interface. We were intentional about making our system simple and userfriendly, considering the limitations of the region we were working in. Having conducted a great deal of research before arriving in Sri Lanka and then continuing to conduct consumer interviews to assess the value of our product once we were on the ground, we learned a great deal about the criteria that would need to be in place in order for our system to be successful. In this regard, one major consideration for us was language. The three main languages of Sinhala, Tamil, and English are spoken throughout the country, but the first two are associated specifically with either the Sinhalese majority or Tamil minority ethnic group. Considering the tensions that remain between these groups in the aftermath of the war, we knew we would have to be careful about choosing the language in which our SMS system would be delivered in. Delving further into the specifics of our system, there were also many little decisions that had to be made—everything from choosing SMS formats to deciding which contact information we wanted to list to identifying the lines of connection we wanted to draw not just from employer to job seeker but also from job seeker to employer. Throughout our many late-night discussions about the system over sweet Sri Lankan tea, we quickly realized that though the system we had conceived did not seem difficult in concept, it would require many hours of back-and-forth between our team and our developers in order to achieve the best product possible. By mid-July we were proud to have a prototype of our system fully developed, which allowed us to run our pilot program with some citizens of Vavuniya through a partnership with the nonprofit organization Sewalanka. While we were pleased with the results of our pilot—over 250 town members were signed up and logged on to the system by the end—we were also grateful for the feedback we received as to how we could better serve community members who would be using it. We realized that beyond just communicating the “how” of our system, we would also need to communicate the “why” as well—in a climate of distrust, the Sri Lankans we were working with had no intention of blindly accepting a system delivered on good faith alone. Thus, it also became our mission to explain why they should have faith in us, why and how this system would help them gain back their livelihoods, why this intervention leveraged mobile technology, and why they should trust us with their personal contact information. All things considered, our work was certainly not easy. Our technological intervention would require time to be adopted and patience on our end. We had to be persuasive and empathetic, convincing but not pushy. Ultimately, Sri Lanka is an island with an island culture. While some parts of the country have seen rapid growth and industrialization in the last decade, there still remain a significant number of communities which haven’t. This summer, the education we received in technological development, strategic planning, and troubleshooting was complemented by our immersion within a fierce cultural battle where communicating goals and objectives has necessarily become a more nuanced affair. We had to be consistent and persistent, reinforcing our needs, being gracious in our asks, and returning time and time again to old conversations in order to reinforce our points. These were cultural adaptations we had to make as problem solvers in a context that was not our own. Returning to Harvard for our Junior year of college, we know that our work is not finished. We have built a promising system, but we are still learning from it and tweaking the interface as we work to make it as intuitive and user friendly as possible. We look forward to returning to Sri Lanka in December to continue our work marketing the system and training even more people to use it. Based on our initial results from the pilot program alone, over 100 villagers have already been connected to new job opportunities. Our partners on the ground at Sewalanka have been ecstatic to report the difference this has made in the lives of people who had lost not only their jobs, families, and houses, but also their confidence and hope for a better future. GrowLanka is working to restore that hope. We have also started conversations with the largest mobile carrier in the region—Dialog—about the sustainability of South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
our system and are excited that they are interested in pursuing an opportunity to acquire and fund it in the future through their initiative to support Sri Lankaâ€™s rural communities. But for now, we are analyzing the data we have received and continuously refining our system. Just as important, we have worked to stake out a presence for ourselves in the country, demonstrated by our diligence, our willingness to show up and do our jobs despite the challenges, and by the open and honest conversations that we had with many a villager to show them that we are not going anywhere. In the end, our summer in Sri Lanka was not just about investing in a new technological innovationâ€”it was about investing in the people whom we were there to help and, ultimately, they are the reason why we will continue to go back.
EmpowHer Saurabh Agarwal, MPA Candidate, Harvard Kennedy School Prem Ramaswami, MBA Candidate, Harvard Business School Chennai, India EmpowHer is an initiative focusing on empowering women through better access to technology along with education support. EmpowHer also hopes to enable the next generation of strong, independent Indian women by providing access to safe, comfortable, and information rich spaces for women. EmpowHer was awarded the Omidyar Grant for Entrepreneurship in South Asia by the South Asia Institute at Harvard University for $9,000. The grant aimed to assist projects and organizations looking at entrepreneurial solutions to social and economic problems in South Asia. Initial Hypothesis: In India, internet access to women is constrained by a number of factors. Some of them are: • Cyber Cafes are not frequented by women due to safety and cleanliness issues. Also, cybercafés are being used largely by males to visit porn sites. • Home computers are “family” computers where women are often not comfortable searching about personal items (like women specific health and hygiene issues). • A large section of society is still adapting to the changing technology and do not find a place to learn at their pace. • There is significant lack of awareness about the latest technologies among women from low • income families. EmpowHer sees the need for technology empowerment as an urgent need of Indian society. EmpowHer proposes to empower women by providing a technology enabled safe environment along with educational support. EmpowHer Team conducted market research and small trials in Tamil Nadu over the summer of 2013. We explored potential self-sustainable models to achieve our vision. We emphasized on three aspects: Access, Security and Content. Our study focused on the need for a technology center for women in Tamil Nadu. We also tried to assess the status of safety and access to cyber cafes for women. The key activities carried out during the market research phase included: • Field Survey with more than 300 women across age group and income segments • Training sessions on internet and email setup with women from different age groups • Changing existing cyber cafes into women only for few hours as an experiment • Online Survey through empowHer website • Meetings with some key stakeholders More than 300 individual women More than 50 Cyber Cafes College Principals of 5 colleges in Tamil Nadu More than 10 College/School Teachers/Lecturers Three Incubator Centers in Chennai along with investors in entrepreneurs Cyber Café Associations Women Association Members Women NGOs South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
Business owners as possible sponsors / grant makers Real estate agents Accountants and Lawyers Industry Associations like NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) eCommerce service providers Technology companies
Key findings We started the study with a broad problem and conducted a study to find the right target segment with the actual need where our idea can help them. Initial hypothesis found false. • Tamil Nadu State Government has issued free laptops to over 15 lakh students of government and aided institutions in the last two years. Also, the internet access rates have come down drastically and become more portable. Some of the data card plans start as low as $2 per month. As a result majority of youth (including women) now have access to internet. • Most of the women have never visited cyber cafes and find alternate means to access internet whenever required. There are also a significant number of women who are unaware of the benefits of internet and hence are not online. • A large number of middle class women who are our primary target do not carry their photo ID cards with them. (Showing ID cards is legally mandatory to enter a cyber café in India) • Cyber cafes have become a negative symbol in the society due to various MMS scandals and hence women are not open to such place. This made it difficult for us to take photographs for our demonstration events since it made people uncomfortable. • Most of the cyber cafes are closing down; Based on rough estimates and discussions around 20% of the total cyber cafes in Chennai have closed down in last 2 years. Most of the cyber cafes are running on losses and using outdated hardware and software to keep costs to minimum. Some of the cafes that are making profits are the ones that are focusing on value added services (such as printing, photocopying, ticket booking, DTP etc) and not necessarily on internet access. • Mobile phone penetration has helped leapfrog the desktop phenomenon and women are actively using mobile phone to search for their queries. • Across segments, a majority of women prefer timings from 4-7 pm in the evening for internet use followed by night time of 7-9 pm. Also, more than 80% surveyed women prefer to make payments by Cash Can we do this with a coffee shop? • Shopping malls have started providing free internet increasing the number of ways for women to use internet. These facilities are provided by broadband service providers like Tikona. • The leading coffee shop chains have still not started providing free Wi-Fi as they are waiting for browsing center regulations to be relaxed. Hence, this might not be a USP for us to start a new business. Can we do this for entrepreneurs? • We studied the support environment for women entrepreneurs to understand the need that this initiative can assist in. We visited three incubation centers along with speaking to investors. It was found that there is presence of conducive environment for women entrepreneurs in the city. Can we do this for Tier III cities?
We even explored Tier III city (Kanchipuram) to study the feasibility of the model. It was found that similar to Chennai, people have migrated to mobile phones and laptops and are using the data cards extensively. Conclusion and Recommendations for next step Based on our extensive study we worked on several models to create a sustainable model around increasing internet access. However, we soon realized that internet access is no longer the challenge in the region we were working in. The cost of access to the Internet for home users is dropping rapidly and most youths already own laptops. We thus reached a conclusion that “women only” cyber café might not be able to meet the need of society in a self-sustaining or profitable manner.
Through our extensive study we have identified the following next step to be pursued: “Friends of internet” – A series of workshops can be executed through a group of volunteers that provide basic computer literacy skills training in their neighborhood. The target segment will be senior citizens and home makers who do want to learn but cannot find a place to learn. A minimal training fee may be charged for the activity. We already conducted two such workshops and have created a team that is planning to carry on more workshops. We have also received encouragement from NASSCOM for such an initiative. There was also a need identified to carryout IT skills training for school teachers and college professors to have a larger impact on the society.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
RABTT Imran Sarwar, Harvard Kennedy School Saniya Ansar, Harvard Kennedy School Haider Raza, Harvard Kennedy School Nora Elsheikh, Harvard Graduate School of Education Asad Husain, Harvard Business School Lahore, Pakistan Rabtt is an initiative that aims to enhance the public education system in Pakistan through engaging public school students in short-term education camps and year-round workshops. These camps and workshops aim to develop critical and independent thinking abilities, confidence, tolerance and adaptability to new ideas among students. This project aims to assist the organization transition from its pilot phase and step towards its new 5 year growth plan. Curriculum reform and new engagement models was tested during the summer camps, from June-Aug 2013, in Lahore, Pakistan. This year, Rabtt conducted two of its 3-week Summer Camps at: - Govt. Pilot Boys High School, Wahdat Road, for 35 boys - City District Govt. Girls High School, Paisa Akhbar, Urdu Bazar, for 41 girls, in collaboration with an established local NGO Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA) Furthermore, five Harvard University students joined the Rabtt team for several weeks at a time to work on various aspects of sustainability and expansion. Imran Sarwar (HKS 2013) continued to work on formalizing the organizational structures and expanding the Rabtt network, as well as securing future funding. Asad Husain (HBS 2013) worked on the financial projections for the organization and created a budget allocation and tracking tool, while Saniya Ansar (HKS 2013) expanded our outreach with possible collaborators and assisted in securing funding sources. Nora Elsheikh (HGSE 2013) handled curriculum reform for the camps and worked on curriculum development for year-long weekend workshops. Haider Raza (HKS 2014) worked on streamlining the volunteer and school recruitment process. Curriculum: At each of these camps, courses on English, Mathematics, Public Speaking, World History, Art, and Dramatics were taught. Computers was taught at Pilot Boys, but had to be removed from the schedule at the girlsâ€™ school due to the administrationâ€™s preference for shorter camp duration. One educational trip was arranged per camp. The boys visited the Lahore Museum and Planetarium, while the girls visited the Science Museum. It was a very fruitful experience for all students. They got to explore historical artefacts from many cultures they had discussed during World History classes. At the science museum, Mathematics and Arts instructors came together to give the students a tour that focused on how things worked and how they were designed. Students, with their curiosity aroused, found recurrent design patterns in science and technology. Closing Ceremonies: Closing Ceremonies were conducted for both camps, where the volunteers, parents, school administration and guests were in the audience. Students shared their experiences about camp, and also
gave speeches, theatrical and musical performances. An art exhibition was also set up to display what they had learned at camp. The chief guests at the end of each ceremony distributed certificates among students. Response: Feedback from the students and parents was positive and encouraging. The students expressed that they had learned many new things and skills at camp. The Closing Ceremonies were, for many of them, the first time performing on stage. Both students and volunteers felt that they had gained more confidence in themselves. Camp was also an excellent opportunity for students to explore new interests, ask questions, and find hidden talents. Some students had a flair for art, and created impressive artwork. Others were very interested in theatre, and have gotten involved with their dramatics teachers in upcoming plays for opportunities to learn acting. Still others were curious about history, and would often take the time out to sit with their teachers after class and bombard them with questions about events they had covered, and those they hadn’t. Students: For previous RSCs, it had been easier to recruit male participants as compared to females, given the reservations parents had. This year, ITA’s contribution in helping conduct an RSC at a girls’ school has been extremely valuable. We hope to be able to include more female students in future RSCs, and collaborating with other more established NGOs will certainly be a great help. Next steps: For the academic years 2013-15, Rabtt envisions to train and strengthen its volunteer base along with intensifying school recruitment. Rabtt will scale its operations to 15 summer camps and 6 workshops per each summer camp centre. A step towards this has been the collaboration for year-round workshops with The Knowledge Schools, a low-cost private school network in Pakistan. Additionally, we feel it is important to explore public-private partnerships, and involve concerned government departments for easier access to schools. Rabtt also envisions developing and conducting an evaluation to test impact against the organization’s three defined measures of success: critical thinking, tolerance and creativity. Overall, RSC’13 was a very valuable learning experience. The feedback generated from the volunteers will help standardize and improve future activities. Rabtt has also attracted many talented volunteers who are interested in staying in touch and continuing to work with Rabtt in its year-round activities. The collaboration with ITA was also very fruitful, and we look forward to working together with them in the future to create more critical thinkers and better learners.
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
SOUTH ASIA INSTITUTE IMMERSION 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.18 Harvard students participated in the program, along with Nora Maginn, SAI Programs Manager, and Payal Narain, SAI Delhi Coordinator, coming to Delhi from their internships and research sites in Bangalore, Jaipur, Pune, and Gujarat. A snapshot of the program is below. Day One: Social Enterprise
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. Day Two: Education
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.
The hub we visited in East Delhi 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 confidence 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. Day Three: Rural Development
Day Four: Reflections
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. 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
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports
“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.” Victoria Gu, Harvard College Sophomore interning at Jana Care in Bangalore “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
South Asia Institute 2013 Grant Reports