SOUTH ASIA INSTITUTE 2014 STUDENT GRANT REPORTS
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 Cover photo courtesy of Ekta Patel, Harvard College â€˜15
TABLE OF CONTENTS SAI Grants at a Glance 1 WINTER SESSION GRANT REPORTS Undergraduate Internships Sabrina Ghouse, UNDP 3 Megan Prasad, AWAKE India and Mega Limb Annual Camp 4 Graduate Internships Johannah Murphy, Aasha Sharanam Centre for Girls 9 Undergraduate Research Inesha Premaratne 11 Graduate Research Mou Banerjee 13 Vineet Diwadkar 15 Sahjabin Kabir 16 Aparna Kamath 17 Caitlin McKimmy 19 Finnian Moore Gerety 21 Yusuf Neggers 22 Alexandra Raphel 23 Haider Raza 24 Justin Stern 25 Andrea Titus 27 Lydia Walker 28 SUMMER GRANT REPORTS Undergraduate Internships Jennifer Chang, Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative 29 Louise Eisenach, Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative 30 Reina Gattuso, Center for the Study of Developing Socieites 31 Jacqueline Ma, Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative 32 Anne Rak, Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative 33 Sara Theiss, VidyaGyan Leadership Academy 34 Graduate Internships Sarah Bolivar, Kopila Valley School & Home 35 Madhav Khosla, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi 36
Undergraduate Research Zeenia Framroze 39 Brenna McDuffie 41 Ekta Patel 43 Graduate Research Mou Banerjee 44 Jahnabi Barooah 46 Kyle Belcher & Daniel Feldman Mowerman 47 Sourav Biswas 48 Todd Brown 50 Gregory Clines 51 Namita Dharia 52 Vineet Diwadkar 53 Kanishka Elupula 55 Laurel Gabler 56 Andrew Halladay 58 Abbas Jaffer 59 Kayla Kellerman 60 Joseph Kimmel 61 Ian Maccormack 63 Aditya Menon 65 James Reich 67 Heather Sarsons 68
SAI GRANTS AT A GLANCE Total Number of Students Funded:
Average Grant Size:
Total Amount Awarded:
Grants Awarded by School
GSD HDS HKS
Grants Awarded by Type
SAI GRANTS GEOGRAPHICAL REACH ACROSS SOUTH ASIA Grants Awarded by Country 2%
Sri Lanka 9%
Map courtesy of Google Maps.
WINTER SESSION GRANT REPORTS SAI funded 15 students over the winter session to pursue research and internship opportunities across South Asia. Undergraduate Internships Sabrina Ghouse | Social Studies & Environment | Harvard College 2015 Internship with United Nations Development Programme
This J-term, I invested my efforts into the UNâ€™s Internship Program and Field Work in Sri Lanka. Part of the UNDPâ€™s mission is to advance environmental protection by improving environmental law, policy, and management: very similar to the goals I have set for myself. The institution has played a pivotal role in shaping the fields of environmental law, policy, and management, domestically and abroad. Today, the office in Sri Lanka is an internationally recognized, non-partisan research and education center working to strengthen environmental protection by improving law and governance worldwide, and a fantastic way to start off my professional environmental career.
I can confidently say that this internship has brought me a long away, from my theoretical conception of environmental policy from Harvard courses, with a deeper understanding of the profession, practice, and substance of environmental law and policy.
The draw of an internship at the UN in Colombo, Sri Lanka was the opportunity to work on a diverse array of environmental issues with policy experts. The UN made an effort to match me with assignments that reflect my particular interests, as well as a variety of topics to help demonstrate the spectrum of work typical of an environmental organization. In addition to planning events and conferences, I worked with policy experts on publications, editing their upcoming books, and publishing articles, memos and reports of my own. I even participated in their Turtle Conservation project outside Colombo. Visit to UNDP Turtle Farm in Galle, Sri Lanka
I can confidently say that this internship has brought me a long away, from my theoretical conception of environmental policy from Harvard courses, with a deeper understanding of the profession, practice, and substance of environmental law and policy. I would not have been able to utilize such a significantly career-altering experience without the funding I received and I cannot express my appreciation in words. I believe that, when faced with future choices, the information I have absorbed at the UN will help me to find the option that best suits my interests, skills, and priorities and achieve my goals.
Megan Prasad | Economics & Government | Harvard College 2015 Volunteer with AWAKE India & Mega Limb Annual Camp Growth and Hope in Bangalore
spent winter break in Bangalore, India. I hadn't been to India in seven years, so it was a truly mindopening experience. During the fall semester, I took a class with Professor Dale Jorgenson on the rise of Asia in the world economy, where I learned about China, Japan, and India. When studying India, we discussed whether growth has been inclusive and lifted people out of poverty or if it has simply made the rich richer. I remember pointing out in class once that India was a land of strange paradoxes when it came to incredible growth and unending poverty. In fact, economists Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen pointed out the paradox in their book India An Uncertain Gloryâ€”in India, everyone has a cellphone and yet most people don't even have a proper toilet. Upon coming to India, I realized the truth of this statement. The new airport in Bangalore looks like something plucked straight out of 2020. It is a shiny glass structure with sleek curves and screams development at its finest. I commented on the grandeur and cleanliness of the new airport and its surroundings. Was this what all of India looked like now? Where was the trash and dung that usually littered the streets? As we zoomed along New Airport Road past the trimmed hedges and luxury billboard ads, I exclaimed over the cleanliness and perfection that Bangalore had become. My driver turned around and said, "Just wait 5 minutes and it will completely change." And it did. India, it seemed was still the same place in many ways. There were still cows grazing along narrow streets, children running without shoes, and auto rickshaws zipping through traffic. But I noticed immediately that a lot had changed about India. The streets seemed a little cleaner but much more congested with traffic. There was construction everywhere and new apartment buildings rose in the skyline. It was a firsthand observation on how growth had changed the country, in some ways for the better. My experiences volunteering for two different programs gave me a firsthand look into issues of gender disparity, illiteracy, the caste system, corruption, religion, and family structures. Awake India Project I had the fortune of working with women from the rural area of Malavalli, Karnataka on marketing their products to businesses in Bangalore. These women are all trying to earn extra money to support their families, especially their children. Because of their rural upbringings, most 4
of these women lack a solid education and future job prospects are limited. Through training at a local university, these women learned to produce food products such as curry powders, papadam, cornmeal, and vermicelli. The university also provided the women with initial equipment to make these products, which the women stored in their village. There was a sense of urgency to find businesses to sell their products as many of the women had made personal investments. There were 250 involved in this initiative and they had been divided into 15 groups. Each group was responsible for a different food product, and the women who had excelled in the university program were the managers for each group. I helped the women to ensure that their products had the proper packaging and quality control. For example, they werenâ€™t printing the manufacturing date on their labels, so I suggested that they make this change. Then I helped the women with areas of marketing to make their products appealing to stores they approached. I recommended that they market the corn products as gluten free, especially because Indians consume a large amount of gluten in their diets. Eventually, once the women generate revenue from local markets, they will be able to build capacity and expand. Once this happens, I will help them pursue international markets, as there is opportunity for their products to be sold in Indian stores in the US. The most interesting part about working with these women was seeing how their quest for a small grain of financial independence created tense relationships with their families. Interestingly, in-laws often give the woman more trouble than a husband would. Jaisheela, the manager of vermicelli production, was shunned every time she made a trip into the city to market the products to stores. Her inlaws were suspicious of what she did when she went to Bangalore and believed that she was engaging in bad behavior even though she was just trying to earn extra income. When she would get back from the city, her family wouldnâ€™t speak to her for several days. Their anger was further compounded by the fact that she had invested money into the endeavor, and they wanted to see a return. I hope that these women succeed because they have more than money at stakeâ€”they have independence at stake. If their families see that they can increase household income, then they will earn the respect, or at least tolerance, of husbands and in-laws. If they fail, the consequences will be much worse than losing 3000 rupees. Annual Mega Limb Camp Because the project with Awake India was less of a day-today role than I originally thought, I also volunteered at the Annual Mega Limb Camp, which took place from January 3 to January 9, 2014. The camp is run by Rotary Bangalore Peenya and gives calipers, artificial limbs, crutches, and LN4 hands to patients at no cost. Patients came from all over South India to attend the camp, but mostly from Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Preceding the camp, we worked to secure donations to feed all the patients for the entire week. All patients re5
ceived three meals a day. While my SAI grant was for my travel expenses, after learning more about the state of the patients, I decided to donate a portion of it towards supplying all the rice and curds for the camp. The people who came to the camp live below the poverty line and were typically villagers. Many of them traveled for hours and hours to simply reach the camp, so it was almost like an outing for them. We also set up the camp, which included a registration area, a work area for the technicians (who came from Jaipur), a rest area, and a kitchen. When patients arrived, they took a number and waited to register. Then they consulted with a doctor who wrote down whether the patient could be treated and if so, what the patient needed (below the knee limb, bilateral calipers, crutches, etc.). Many could not be treated because they needed a tricycle and in the past those given a tricycle had gone and sold it a few hours after receiving one. The way that the registration tables were organized was inefficient and created confusion for the beneficiaries, especially considering their difficult in walking, let alone maneuvering steps. A ramp had been set up at the entrance of the camp to cover up a set of stairs. The ramp, while an improvement, was still drastically below the standards of handicap accessible as it was uneven. These problems with handicap accessibility at a place for the handicapped mirror a lack of accessibility throughout India. New buildings typically include ramps and elevators, but pre-existing infrastructure is a different story. With two-wheelers parked on them, potholes, and lack of ramps to get up, sidewalks are difficult to walk on regardless of disability. At the camp, I had several different roles. I worked at the government records table for a little bit each day because there was always a long line. The beneficiaries were understandably impatient considering they had traveled long distances and couldnâ€™t get their limb or caliper measurements until they received their government ID. I enjoyed helping at government records because it was a chance to interact with all patients and hear their stories. To my initial surprise, I had to ask each beneficiary for his/her caste. I later discovered that this was done because those in the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe would be given more government aide. I also learned to fit LN-4 prosthetic hands on patients. These hands were donated by the Ellen Foundation and were made by corporate employees at team-building conferences in Australia. The Ellen Foundation was initially started as a tribute to Ellen Meadows, daughter of Ernie and Marj Meadows. Er6
nie created the hand as a low-cost, lightweight, durable way to help people who couldn’t afford more expensive alternatives. The hand can perform several different grips and is useful for writing, bathing, eating, and other daily tasks. Fitting hands was exciting for me because I felt like I was actively doing something to help these people. It was nice to see them walk away with all the possibilities of using their new hand. Muttu Raj, pictured above, was someone whom I’ll remember for a very long time. He came with an entire school of disabled children, and was excited to be able to write. He spent 30 minutes practicing his writing, which made me realize the impact that this would have on his education. Another role that I did was serving food during lunchtime. This was a hectic role as there were hundreds of beneficiaries at the camp on any given day. While almost 2,000 patients were served at the camp, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the people turned away. In India, it seems as though a good deed cannot be done without considering where there is room for corruption. Dozens of people came crawling to the camp--literally--seeking help. These people could not be helped because as stated previously, they would sell the tricycle or wheelchair they received immediately after getting it. Working at the camp, I not only learned how to fit a hand and how to record details for records, but I also learned a great deal about larger issues that affect millions all over India. This first-hand experience was helpful material as I consider my thesis, which will undoubtedly be about India and its development. Whenever I worked at the registration table for government records, I realized the extent to which illiteracy is still prevalent. Many older beneficiaries couldn’t sign their name and had to leave a thumbprint instead. More often, these tended to be women. It was indicative of the life that many villagers face and the lack of educational opportunities. No young beneficiaries used the thumbprint, so it made me feel positive that things are changing for the better. I also noticed the difficulties that stem from India’s hundreds of languages. While I have a basic grasp of Kannada, I do not know any other Indian language. Karnataka is a Kannada-speaking state, but growth in this IT hub has brought an influx of workers from other states. Also, many beneficiaries came from different states, so there was a large barrier to communication. Many people came to the table but could only speak Tamil or Hindi, so I had to resort to sign language or find someone who could communicate. I noticed that the diversity of languages created problems in record keeping, because there is little standardization in what language records are kept. Since we were writing the information in the books by hand, I would record beneficiaries’ information in English, but someone else would record the information in Hindi. Furthermore, throughout the entire camp, I thought about the causes of these disabilities and how these could be prevented by education on maternal health, greater worker safety, or better electrical wiring. On the fourth day of the camp, when an entire school for disabled children showed up, it was absolutely heart breaking. All of the children were afflicted since birth, and their defects were rarely due to polio (more of the adults had cases of polio). These deformities could be entirely attributed to 7
poor nutrition or use of the wrong medicine during pregnancy. When I was working at the LN-4 table and fitting prosthetic hands, I had the chance to ask patients about the cause of loss. Many of the men there said that it was from a machine accident or an accident in the field. This brings up the problems with worker safety in the country. In India there are complicated labor laws that are supposed to protect workers, but in reality these laws make it impossible for workers to find jobs. While these laws are present, there are really no laws about worker safety and many people suffer injuries in factories and receive no compensation. Many patients also came in because they had suffered from electrical shocks. Walking around in India, I saw the wires dangling from transformers, and my mom warned me never to walk near them. The difficulty with that is it’s hard to walk on the street too! It’s either death by electrocution or death by traffic, I would joke. But it’s not a joke—it’s a real problem that affects many people. A girl came in without a right hand because she had reached up and touched a wire while walking home from school. Apart from the causes of these handicaps, my experiences at the camp also brought up legal issues and the lack of justice in the Indian courts. I met a woman who told me the story of how she lost her leg. She was selling flowers on the side of the street, when a huge truck ran over the curb. She was the first one who got run over, as did several other street-side vendors sitting near her. The truck driver ran away from the accident and never faced any consequences for his actions. If these problems were solved, then India would undoubtedly have a more able workforce. We study growth and development in a classroom, but we often don’t see the reality of the situation. In a basic productivity function, labor is a main input, showing us that fixes to the Indian labor pool would greatly benefit the country, especially as it seeks to grow and move past a slowdown. Bangalore is a beautiful city, and I had a great time just living in it. I’ve included some pictures of other experiences I had while there. I wish that I could have stayed longer than one month, but hopefully I go back soon. India has seen tremendous growth in the past years. If there is any doubt of this, just look at how well luxury car brands like Audi, Mercedes, and BMW have been doing in the past few years. I asked the question at the beginning of my trip if this growth had affected the poor and helped them climb out of the hole of poverty. I left India with no clear answer. The experiences that I had convinced me the situation is improving. However, sometimes it seemed like no amount of help was ever enough. Throughout my whole visit, I was shocked by the disparity in the country. There are people who are able to spend rupees at western prices and buy Louis Vuitton and Starbucks. There are also people who earn 1200 rupees a month (around $20) and buy pani puri on the street for 10 rupees. Whenever, I would feel discouraged that this gap would never be closed, I would just think back to my first day in India when I marveled at the beauty of the new airport road. I hope that with India’s newfound growth, more jobs are created and more people are given a chance at prosperity.
Graduate Internship Johannah Murphy | Master of Divinity Studies | HDS Internship with Aasha, Sharanam Centre for Girls, Mumbai, India
One of the crucial aspects of any type of social justice work is making sure that the successful facets of the project, the work, are sustainable. This winter thanks to a grant from the South Asian Institute at Harvard University, I was able to return to a project I had begun over the summer with the organization Aasha, working on both the overall success and sustainability of the project at hand. For three weeks in the Dharavi slum of Mumbai, I worked with two groups of young women on several projects concerning women’s empowerment, advocacy/leadership, and future planning. I worked with Aasha in: 1.) Evaluating and continuing curriculum I created and built during the summer, 2.) Running five workshops for college-aged young women 3.) Working one-on-one with three girls, soon to enter college, on topics of leadership and future planning, 4.) Running classes for the younger girls on U.S. culture through art. The Empowered Advocate Initiative: This past summer 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. This winter I reconnected with this volunteer and with her, organized how this program would proceed. I then ran five more workshops that covered topics including: elevator speeches, confidence building, letter writing, and defining leadership in both a personal and wider way. Throughout these workshops the young women developed and worked on elevator speeches, presentation techniques, a blog intended as an inspirational and educational forum for the younger girls at the center, and created small booklets on The Importance of Women Leaders. To preserve this program I worked closely with the volunteer who lives in Mumbai on producing a plan for the upcoming year that will consist of workshops coupled with an internship program all the young women who are at college, will participate in. Along with editing the curriculum, I also included three new classes along with a “transition class,” as there will be a small amount of time before the volunteer will start them up again. One-On-One Mentorship: One of Aasha’s main goals is not only to provide the young women with deep enrichment that will assist them in their immediate future, but in the long term as well. Part of ensuring their success beyond when they leave the shelter is helping them to establish obtainable goals and steps they should be taking in order to achieve these goals with success and pride. To assist in this process, I worked with three of the young women on topics of future planning as well 9
as developing specific plans to where they desire to go. Through discussion, written exercises, Internet research, and ongoing conversation, I assisted the girls in coming up with detailed next-step-plans, as well as their future goals and dreams. The young women and I, all worked to keep the goals specific and realistic, collaboratively crafting their dreams so they are obtainable. These young women after a few one-on-one sessions joined the older girls and participated with enthusiasm in the workshops on leadership and advocacy. U.S. Culture/History Through Art Classes: Over the summer I had the opportunity to work with the younger girls at the shelter on the topic of U.S.A. history and culture. I continued this class with the younger girls adding a new twist of looking at U.S. history and culture through an artistic lens while also discussing the purpose of art and completing some art projects ourselves. The girls reviewed and learned new topics through classes structured with a lesson proceeded by an art project. The goal of the class was not only to learn about U.S. culture/history and improve English skills, but to also explore the idea of "art," why art is important and how doing, seeing, and experiencing art enhances learning and the mind. The girls created colorful "patchwork quilt" depictions of the U.S. and talked about how art can make room for different viewpoints and allows the viewer to think differently about history, culture, and it all! Current Work: I am hoping to continue my work with Aasha in the capacity of working on: The Empowered Advocate Initiative: Curriculum for Developing Personal Leadership Skills and Wider Community Development for the Young Women at the Sharanam Center. In the weeks/months ahead, I will be in continual contact with the other volunteer who is now running the programming, occasionally skyping in with the girls, and contacting the young women I worked with in the one-on-one sessions via e-mail. In this way, I aspire to make sure the work I have done with this center during the summer and winter remains sustainable and relevant.
Undergraduate Research Inesha Premaratne | Economics & Government | Harvard College 2015 GrowLanka Project
The plans were set. We were crashing convocation. So I exaggerate – but not really. We had spent all of Friday registering women and farmers to GrowLanka, a mobile system I co-founded back in 2012 that sends sector-specific job alerts to subscribers. Midday I broke away for a meeting with MAS, an employer in the northern part of the country whom we were collaborating with, and ended up talking to a young woman working there. She suggested we try talking to young people about our system. “They could really use it,” she told me. “And you know what – tomorrow is my convocation at Jaffna University — there will be like 1000 people there that you could tell about GrowLanka.” And the lightbulb went on. She called her dean at the school and arranged for us to have a table set up outside of the University. We made a big GrowLanka banner and printed up instructions for subscribing people to the system. I made a gazillion more subscription cards and started cutting them out. We sent out a facebook alert. Everything happened so quickly, it was bizarre. But there we were on Saturday morning at 6:30 am leaving Vavuniya to make the 3 hour drive along the A9 highway to Jaffna. We set up shop right near one of the gate entrances. The grounds were filled with people. Garlands, lights, colors. Ladies in pretty saris and gents dressed up in suits. It was clearly a day for celebration. I felt like one of the wedding crashers. But it was a venue that made so much sense for GrowLanka. Here these young people were graduating from college or from their degree program and inevitably, they would be looking for a job. As soon as we got there, people rushed to help us set up. Young men helped us hang up our banners and our driver and translator for the day started telling people about GrowLanka. We got about ten people signed up in one go. But then what was really astonishing to me was how they stuck around. The student body president of the junior class was with us. They called their friends over, explained the system to them, and helped us get more people subscribed.
As more and more people gathered around our table, more stopped to hear about our work. At times I felt like I was at the floor of some massive arena with a bunch of people peering down at me. The students peppered us with many questions — about the nature of our project, about our service, about why we were doing it, the jobs they might see come across the system. It was busy work. There were ebbs and flows of people for certain but more often than not our hands and eyes and mouths were occupied with completely different tasks all at once. Amidst the chaos, there were a few things that really made me pause. For one, the men were always eager to sign up. They questioned us less. The women hung back in groups. Once the crowd died down, I’d see groups of women flung out a couple feet from our table. They’d send over an emissary to our table—the woman who, I suspect, spoke the best English from among them. She’d ask us many thoughtful questions and take her measure of us. And then she’d take a whole handful of subscription cards and get the women in her group to sign up from an area removed from our table. Eventually, she’d come back, gifting us with a whole load of papers. Many women (and I didn’t even realize this until I started data entering all these new subscribers) entered several numbers– not just for themselves but too for their kids, husbands, family members. Women, I found, were far more timid to approach us – just as they were far more discerning of our services. They proved to be some of the best advocates for our system. But beyond anything else, the thing that sticks out to me most was the exchanges I had with the people on the ground there. A second year Tamil law student came to the table with his Sinhalese friend. They were talking in Sinhalese so I interjected. He said you know I’m so glad you’re doing this – you don’t even know how much this is needed. The people here really suffered during the war. He explained to me the trials of finding a job, features not all that uncommon in post-conflict environments. He explained to me that a lot of people had taken 2-3 times longer to complete their degree because of the fighting going on. Some students couldn’t go home because during term time their home villages turned into battlefields. The library on campus was burned one night. Students couldn’t do internships over summers because businesses had left the region – meaning that when they graduated, they didn’t have any experience to market to potential employers. All these things and more he ticked through methodically and then he turned over his subscriber card and wrote a note about the specific kind of job he was looking for — beyond just the routine category (medicine, law, government work, etc.) that our system required users to input. I could see then how he really believed in our system. That got to me. How ten minutes later he came back with his friends and explained our set-up to them. How he shook my hand. The promise in his eyes, his belief in our system pushed me even harder; it is this moment that is now sealed in my memory, one that I think about each time as we make plans to scale and grow GrowLanka to better service beyond the north. 12
Graduate Student Research Grant Reports Mou Banerjee | PhD | Department Of History | GSAS Indian Intellectual Response to Christianity and the Creation of the Modern Indian Public Sphere
hope to incorporate vernacular sources from Muslim intellectuals in my project which aims to investigate Indian intellectual response to Christianity leading to the creation of a modern Indian public sphere. With the generous help of SAIâ€™s Winter Session Research Grants, I travelled to Calcutta, India in December 2013, to start research on this aspect of my dissertation. My plan for this winter, spread over four weeks of archival work, was threefold. First, I wished to study St. Johns Church in Calcutta, India the life and work of important Muslim intellectuals associated with the Bengal Renaissance and reform movements in the nineteenth century. I hoped to critically investigate figures like Mir Mosharraf Hossain and Syed Amir Ali, as well as somewhat lesser know figures such as Munshi Meherullah and Maulana Keramat Ali, who were important in spreading popular awareness about the impact of Christian apologetics on Islam in Bengal. I also wished to read critically and engage with the works of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, whose novellas and short stories critically examined gender relationships from a proto-feminist view-point. I wanted to compare and contrast her work with the autobiographical literature penned by a number of well-known Hindu and Brahmo women, like Swarnakumari Devi who redefined the arena of womenâ€™s rights through their ground-breaking intellectual and political engagements. Second â€“ I wished to examine the popular perception of these intellectuals and their work through a close investigation of newspapers and journals. I wanted to look at newspapers such as The Moslem World, Mihir O Sudhakar, and Islam Pracharak. And third, I wanted to look at the legal and administrative measures undertaken by the colonial government in Calcutta to control the public debate between the Christian evangelical missionaries and the Muslim and Hindu intellectuals. I wanted to examine the measures taken to control the political activists and the efforts to repress the periodic public outrage fanned by conversion efforts or acrimony resulting from debates. I wanted to look at the police-files and judicial records in the West Bengal State Archives to investigate this aspect of my research questions. I arrived in Calcutta on the 26th of December, and set about visiting the archives at the National Archives, the CSSS and the West Bengal State Archives. The first setback to my plan of research was the news that the College Street branch of the West Bengal State Archives, which contained majority of the material I had hoped to consult, was indefinitely shut for renovations. I was disheartened but decided to follow up on my other archives. During my work in the archives of the National Library, I read as much as I could on the different Islamic newspapers in Bengali, which gave me an idea of the concerns and debates in the Bengali Muslim ashraf communities. I also read extensively in the digitized archives 13
of the CSSS. I came across figures such as Nawab Abdul Latif and his efforts in spreading English pedagogy among the Muslims in Bengal, which is a forgotten counterpart to the illustrious career of figures such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. I hope to write about him in my dissertation. I also read about Mir Mosharraf Hossain as extensively as I could, and the linkages between Hossain and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee will also be an important part of my dissertation. Hossainâ€™s novel â€œBishad Sindhuâ€? which tells the tragic story of the Karbala was praised in the contemporary press as well as by Bankim himself as a pioneering effort in vernacular Muslim literature. An unplanned but welcome benefit of looking at nineteenth century vernacular newspapers was that I gathered some more information about a sensational inheritance-case in mid-nineteenth century, where a prominent Bengali aristocrat disowned his son because he had converted to Christianity. Since the incident is going to be a chapter in my dissertation, I now have enough material to start writing. Another fortuitous aspect of my stay in Calcutta was a chance meeting with Dr Susan Bean, who kindly discussed her work on early linkages between India and the USA with me, and opened up an exciting new avenue of research, that I cannot wait to follow up on. A kind email from Professor Francis Clooney alerted me to the presence of the papers of an important Jesuit scholar of Hinduism in Calcutta, and I hope that I will gain a better perspective of the religious and political debates in the Indian public sphere through my study of such figures. Archival work is, by its very nature, characterized by long periods of despondency, interspersed with moments of utter joy. I have been fortunate that for every delay and dismay that I have faced, I have had uncounted moments of exciting new discoveries, and a clearer sense of where my dissertation is headed, and the arguments I want to make. The continuously generous and kind support of SAI, its benefactors, members and staff have, over the last three years, made both my pre-dissertation and archival research possible. I cannot express how grateful I am for this unstinting encouragement.
Vineet Diwadkar | Masters of Urban Design/ Landscape Architecture | GSD Modelling Mumbai: Human Architectural Currencies
The generosity of the South Asia Institute has allowed me to continue collaboration with anthropologist Vyjayanthi Rao on Modelling Mumbai, a research project combining ethnography, video documentation and graphic visualization of the processes underlying Mumbai’s contemporary urban form. The research will be presented via a public website and eventually turned into a short, pamphlet style publication. Since the 1990s, urbanism in Mumbai is marked by a simultaneous rise of informal settlement alongside the growth of a high-rise city and its infrastructure. During this period, new planning regulations have introduced a unique algorithm for remaking the built environment. These regulations incentivize private developers to develop low-cost housing for slum-dwellers in exchange for access to the land occupied by these marginalized citizens. This schema of privatization and the conversion of resettled slum-dwellers into an architectural currency, enabling the addition of millions of square feet to the city’s built stock has radically altered the city’s physical and cultural form and is now a model rapidly spreading across India. The field visit research plan involved intensive ground research in Mumbai interviewing resettled slumdwellers and activists and documentation of emerging built forms, neighborhood ecologies and cultural effects of these transitions. These visits included sites throughout Mumbai, in Tardeo, Girgaon, Dadar, as well as in Chembur, Mankhurd and Sewri and the Western suburbs of Andheri, Vile Parle and Santa Cruz. Previously undocumented sites were documented towards visualizing multiple scales and experiences. These include geospatial data, diagrams, photographic and videographic archives for analysis and visualization of these urban transformations and their cultural consequences. During my meetings with local activists, researchers and professionals, it became clear that Modelling Mumbai would offer them a high degree of empirical accuracy and defensible research to be appropriated into their own activities. These geographies provide crucial insight into the complexity of not only Mumbai’s planning and construction processes, but also challenge the limits of methods for visualizing these complexities so that they might become opportunities for projective intervention. Since returning, I have begun building visualizations of the data to distill the processes at work and have initiated an archiving platform to store video footage as well as to display edited video materials for public use. Professor Rao and I hope to continue this project through finer-grained interviews and documentation with residents as well as with developers, planning officials, and building and infrastructure contractors. I am grateful to the South Asia Institute for supporting me in this effort.
Sahjabin Kabir | Master of Design Studies | GSD Research on The Emergence of Flyovers in Dhaka City
overwhelming experience: forty-eight days of extensive travel in Dhaka; visits to six sites, eight government organizations, ten private institutes; meetings with more than twenty five planning and implementation officers, scholars and activists; ten to twelve hours of work daily from site visits to data collection to meetings with officials. I am obliged to the Harvard South Asian Institute (SAI) for giving me these opportunities and honoring me with their Winter Grant for conducting my dissertation studies in Dhaka city. I had to choose my dissertation topic in the beginning of fall 2013. From the beginning, I was interUnderneath the Khilgaon Flyover in Dhaka ested to work on the South Asian context especially in Bangladesh, where I grew up experiencing day-to-day issues. I wanted my dissertation topic to be a rising voice against these issues. As I was native to these problems, it was easier for me to understand the context even though I extremely needed a visit to Dhaka. Working in the context of Dhaka was a challenging one for me because virtually no data was available online or in US libraries. I had to run to different organizations to collect my study materials. Moreover, I had to visit my research sites several times in person to observe and experience the existing situation. My dissertation is mostly site oriented and my trip to Dhaka served as an important phase of my research methodology. I came to Dhaka in December with the purpose of conducting my dissertation on the burgeoning flyovers in Dhaka city. Flyovers are a new urban trend of Dhaka city that were introduced in the year 2003 and in the last few years a large number of flyovers were constructed. With their construction, Dhaka began a process of continuous degradation of the physical and social environments: pollution, loss in natural landscapes, health hazards, growing inequities and so on. Therefore, my research intention was to identify and address the root causes in flyover planning and development. I wanted to understand what led to these issues, so that these issues can be resolved in future planning. In order to conduct this research, I had to visit the key agencies and talk with the in-charge officials involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of different flyover projects. As the flyovers in Dhaka city were executed by different agencies, I had to visit each of them: Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK), Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Roads and Highways. I had to inquire about the environmental impact assessment data of these projects at Department of Environment (DOE) and the Planning Ministry provided me with the required data. I had also meetings with the leaders of non-governmental agencies whose research areas relate to my inquiries such as Center for Urban Studies (CUS), Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Work For Better Bangladesh (WBB Trust), Bangladesh Center for Advance Studies (BCAS), Bangladesh Institute for Planners (BIP), World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), among others. Professors from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and BRAC and some other prominent scholars and social activists provided me with their valuable opin16
ions about the flyover projects in Dhaka. Moreover, I went to explore various flyover sites in Dhaka city- Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Banani, Khilgaon, Gulistan, Jatrabari and Kuril- at different times of the day and night to discover the happenings across the neighborhood. All these visits provided me with enriched documents for my dissertation. And the information I collected can be used for future Flyover Projects in Dhaka. Thanks to SAI, all this would not have been possible for me without their generous grant. Aparna Kamath | Master in Public Health | Department of Global Health and Population | HSPH Research Project on Understanding Access to Cancer Care in India
Attention to the issue of access to treatment and care for various types of cancer in low- and middleincome countries has been growing in recent years. However, the literature on this topic is nascent. The aim of my project in India this January was to shed light on newly-emerging health challenges in India, to facilitate greater understanding of the opportunities and challenges posed by any technology (drug, vaccine or medical device) that will be costly but life saving, and the difficulties managing access to these innovations. India is an important country for better understanding global access to cancer care, due to its large population, heavy burden of disease, large and varied health infrastructure, and local production of drugs for cancer treatment. My project began in June 2013, with drawing up background papers to identify the players, policies and programs that shape access to cancer care in India, as well as the gaps in the literature on cancer care. After six months spent obtaining IRB approvals from Harvard and the Institute of Public Health in India, this January, thanks to a generous grant from SAI, I was able to travel to India to conduct exploratory research. The idea was to meet identified leaders in the field and gain a better understanding of what can be learned regarding the challenges of improving access to cancer treatment and care in resource-constrained settings. I spent 3 weeks in India, traveling from Bangalore to Bombay and then Delhi, conducting a number of interviews with key stakeholders from the government, Driving to interviews in a NGOs, patient advocacy groups, and public and priconstant stream of traffic vate hospitals. Most people I approached were very meant I often spent more time happy that a student was interested in learning more chatting with cab drivers than about their work, and the barriers to accessing cancer my intended interviewees. care in India. I was welcomed into organizations big and small, and got to meet a number of people within each of them, giving me a really nuanced picture of the various activities undertaken there. Even at hospitals, busy doctors passed me around from one depart17
My background research in Cambridge had not uncovered a fraction of what I learned going to India. The most fascinating discovery was that there are two networks for cancer care operating in India – the public health network and the private/NGO sector – that run almost parallel to each other, with little interaction. To an outsider it would appear that uniting these networks would reduce redundancies, making care more efficient by utilizing resources better, and crafting a landscape that is easier for patients to navigate. However, further insight into the politics and economics of healthcare show this to be untrue, which make for an interesting case. The high cost of drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as transport and living expenses for The Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Center, where patients traveling to the cities for the oncology department is constantly bustling treatment means that money is the with not just doctors and nurses, but social driving force behind every new workers, fundraisers, engineers, and scientists. program of care. NGOs working in different parts of the country have developed informal networks among themselves that track patients to ensure they are taken care of wherever they move for treatment within the country, finding them cheap housing, employment, and subsidized drugs. Hospitals do their own bit by working on an ‘economies of scale’ model or setting up sliding fee scales to bring prices down for everyone. The government has set up small-scale insurance schemes to protect the most vulnerable from catastrophic healthcare costs. Such programs work to prevent those who need cancer care from falling between the cracks because of financial constraints. Of course, cancer is a complex disease and every case is unique. This means that blanket financial programs are unlikely to solve many of the more sophisticated issues patients face in accessing effective treatment and care. My time in India gave me a taste of the intricate network of care that is growing larger and more inclusive everyday, despite growing costs, but there’s much more to be uncovered. I plan to continue conducting interviews over the phone while in Cambridge, and maybe soon I will get another chance to go back to India and complete my research.
Caitlin McKimmy | Master of Theological Studies | Buddhist Studies | HDS Research on Sacred Landscape and Tibetan Identity in Dharamsala, India
As a scholar of Buddhism, I am eager to study the Vajrayana tradition as it lives and breathes in the Himalaya. Thanks to a generous grant from Harvard’s South Asia Institute, I was able to spend January 2014 exploring my research interests at the heart of the Tibetan Government in Exile, in Dharamsala, India. During my time in Dharamsala, I utilized the unique resources of the area to examine the way in which Tibetan refugees intertwine the notion of a 'sacred homeland' into their narratives of persecution and displacement. As a second year MTS student at Harvard Divinity School, I am interested examining the interplay between religion, national identity, development, and geography in the dynamic socio-political context of the culturally Tibetan Himalaya. As I carried out my winter session research project, I was able to shed new light on the following research questions of mine: How do Tibetan exiles Caitlin in Dharamasala relate to the sacred, geographic landscape of Tibet in their personal narratives? What impact does the myth of place have on the perseverance of the Tibetan nation in the face of occupation and exile? Is this notion of ‘sacredness’ intertwined with conceptions of environmental stewardship? Dharamsala was a particularly rich place to explore these questions—it is the location of the Central Tibetan Administration and the current residence of the Dalai Lama, and is a hub of numerous Tibetan governmental and non-profit organizations, publications, schools, and libraries. Upon arrival, I found that all of these various centers of the Tibetan exile community were very receptive to my questioning, and that they provided me with a wealth of stories and information. Through formal interviews, informal conversations, event attendance, and library research, I was able to get a good idea of Tibetan perspectives surrounding sacred landscape and cultural identity. Generally I found that, among Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, nostalgia for the landscape of Tibet is practically universal. As one journalist put it, “We are exiles precisely because we can no longer walk on the ground that made us.” There was a spectrum of ac19
counts about the notion of this geography as ‘sacred,’ per se—more educated refugees would categorize places of Tibet in terms of their religious value, and would often mention the Chinese destruction of the Tibetan environment. An incredible number of recent publications coming out of Dharamsala also espouse this notion that the pristine, sacred land of Tibet is being decimated by the Chinese occupation. There is also a burgeoning number of poets and creative writers in the Tibetan exile community, and perhaps the most salient motif of these emerging works is the glorification of the sacred landscape of Tibet. These poetic discourses are emotional, nostalgic, and, fascinatingly, often religious in character. However, when I spoke with less erudite members of the Tibetan refugee community, I found that there was a much less developed notion of sacred landscape. Former nomads and farmers would recall Tibet as lovely, and would recount the times that they went on pilgrimage, but they seldom described the land of Tibet, or their stories upon it, in terms of the religious valence of place. However, fascinatingly, I found that working-class Tibetans would often say that they remembered Tibet as a “clean” place. Time and time again nomads would tell me that their fine Tibetan yaks would only drink out of the cleanest of water, and that, before the Chinese occupation, there was no plastic on the plateau of Tibet. Therefore, fascinatingly, I found a sort of proto-environmentalism to be more universally articulated than a notion of the sacred among working-class Tibetans. Of course, my time in Dharamsala generated far more questions than it answered. These questions are rich however. My winter term in Northern India gave me a great foundational knowledge of the Tibetan exile community, and will serve as a fabulous starting-point for my future research into the intersections between Tibetan cultural identity, sacred geography, and environmental conservation.
Finnian M.M. Gerety | PhD | Department of South Asian Studies | GSAS Research on the South Asian Textualization of Sacred Sound
South Asia Institute Winter Session research grant enabled me to travel to Kerala in January 2014. During my stay, I conducted fieldwork for the final phase of my dissertation research in Thrissur and Palakkad; and presented a conference paper at the Sixth International Vedic Workshop in Calicut. I am gratified to report that the trip was a success: the fieldwork went smoothly and my paper was awarded "Best Student Contribution" by the organizers of the conference. My dissertation is a case study of sacred sound in its earliest South Asian textualization, the Vedas, canonical texts of Hinduism. I tell the story of the emergence of "OM," the ubiquitous Sanskrit mantra that has been in active practice across faiths for almost three thousand years. To make my argument that OM's role in recitation and performance was decisive in its development in ancient India, I take a new approach combining philological and ethnographic methods--that is, I not only make a critical study of the source texts but also interview and record Kerala Brahmins who use the texts in their oral and ritual traditions. This recent trip made it possible for me to consult my informants about several practices described in my dissertation. I made video and audio recordings of their performances, including a valuable rendition of what is probably the oldest known text featuring OM, from the Araṇyegeyagāna ("Book of Forest Songs"), composed ca. 1000 BCE. This testimony will be a great help to me as I finish the final draft of my dissertation this spring. This year's International Vedic Workshop marked the first time this conference had been held in India, and the focus of the Workshop was on promoting interdisciplinary, transcultural collaboration between Sanskrit paṇḍits and their counterparts from universities across Asia, Europe and the Americas. As such, it was a fitting venue to highlight my research, which attempts to integrate emic and etic approaches to knowledge. I presented a paper entitled "This Whole World is OM: the Contributions of Jaiminīya Sāmaveda to the Emergence of India's Sacred Syllable," in which I addressed the contributions of pre-modern singers to OM's history. The paper was well received and honored with an award; it will be published next year in the conference proceedings.
Three generations of Sāmavedic singers in Palakkad, Kerala
This is the third grant I have received from SAI in as many years since I began my dissertation fieldwork. I am grateful for this support, without which my interdisciplinary research simply would not have been possible. I look forward to further collaborations with the Institute in the future.
Yusuf Neggers| PhD | Department of Public Policy | GSAS Research on Identity and Elections in India
The generous support of the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) gave me the opportunity to return to India for seven weeks during January and February, allowing me to continue field research and data collection efforts in support of my dissertation. This research examines the influence of the identities of individuals with whom the electorate interacts at the local government level and during the conduct of state and national assembly elections in the state of Bihar between 2005 and 2010 on voter turnout and behavior in those elections. I first spent more than a month based out of the New Delhi office of Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia and met on multiple occasions with officials at the national headquarters of the Election Commission of India (ECI), including Dr. Nasim Zaidi, one of the current Election Commissioners. These detailed interviews helped improve my understanding of the specifics of the electoral contexts being considered from the viewpoint of the institution responsible for the administration of the elections themselves. The officials explained the main problems that existed in the past, the policies which were implemented in an effort to address them, and the challenges which they viewed as remaining in the proper conduct of elections in India. These interviews will help inform the specific hypotheses to be tested in the empirical analysis portion of my work. I additionally travelled to Patna, the capital of the state of Bihar, to meet with officials at the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), which is the state-level institution responsible for state- and national-level election management in coordination with the ECI. While there I carried out follow up meetings with election officials to acquire detailed pollingstation level data from the 2005, 2009, and 2010 state and national assembly elections. The ability to be physically present at the offices was critical, as the election data is generally publicly available but requires successive rounds of follow up in person to obtain successfully. I then met with officers at the State Election Commission (SEC), the government body which handles elections to local government bodies, to follow up on the collection of data related to the identities of the elected heads of village councils. My time in Patna also allowed me to conduct interviews with a number of individuals involved in the elections on the ground as voters, polling station officials, and journalists. Their viewpoints provided valuable perspectives complementary to those of the previously interviewed higher ranking election officials, who were more involved in bigger picture strategy. Finally, throughout my time in India, I assisted the former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, in making revisions to his forthcoming book, An Undocumented Wonder, which provides a detailed examination of the functioning of the Election Commission of India and the progress it has made in the decades since independence in managing elections involving enormous populations of voters in often turbulent settings.
Alexandra Raphel | Master in Public Policy | HKS Designing a Sustainable Ambulance System in Karachi, Pakistan
Thanks to the support of the South Asia Institute, in January 2014 I, along with Andrea Titus, traveled to Pakistan to study pre-hospital emergency response in Karachi. Since October 2013, we have been working with a private ambulance service as part of our policy analysis exercise – the capstone project for students pursuing a Master in Public Policy degree at the Kennedy School. The people of Karachi currently lack a publicly provided emergency medical service, relying instead on private ambulances to transport them to or from hospitals in crisis situations. Most of these vehicles, many of them operated by charitable organizations, lack the necessary medical equipment or trained personnel to administer enroute interventions. This has the potential to be especially problematic in a tense, populous city like Karachi, which sees a high level of dangerous road traffic accidents, violent crimes, and harmful flooding. In March 2009, the Aman Foundation – a not-for-profit trust – launched Aman Ambulance as part of an effort to provide higher quality emergency care to all neighborhoods in Karachi. Since October 2013, we have been examining Aman Ambulance’s operations in an effort to determine how the service can maximize its value in the particularly challenging Karachi environment while still achieving its goals for financial sustainability. While in Karachi, we not only conducted in-depth interviews with Aman Ambulance staff, but we were able to speak with other emergency response stakeholders as well, including other private ambulance systems and the staff at hospital emergency departments. Some highlights included visiting the Edhi Foundation, a charity that has been tending to Karachi’s most impoverished and vulnerable communities almost as long as Pakistan has been a country, as well as the Indus Hospital, a facility that provides care to patients completely free of charge. We were also fortunate to be able to attend the SAI-sponsored Contemporary South Asian City Conference. Several of the experts there spoke on issues directly related to our research, including the state of the Pakistani healthcare system and disaster and mass casualty response in a city like Karachi. In line with our prior experiences in Pakistan – we both spent the previous (very hot) summer in Lahore – people were extremely welcoming and generous, willingly sparing the time to meet with us and answer our questions. We also found that Karachiites were excited to show us their city, which does not always get the best international press coverage. We were often able to use the evenings to see some interesting Karachi landmarks, including a picturesque restaurant right on the waterfront and the famed Mohatta Palace, which once housed Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although examining ambulance intervention data and Skyping with members of the Aman Ambulance team throughout the fall was a good start to our project, actually traveling to Karachi has greatly informed our report. Not only did the in-person interviews fill in critical information gaps, but just being in the city provided invaluable context. Sitting in notorious Karachi traffic each day or seeing how difficult it is to find addresses given Karachi’s jumbled, haphazard urban planning made us realize how much of a challenge timely emergency response truly is. We hope that this understanding will make for more practical and useful recommendations for Aman Ambulance. The final report will be completed and published this spring. 23
Haider Raza | Master in Public Policy | Political and Economic Development | HKS Evaluations for the Punjab Education Sector Reforms Programme in Pakistan
To tackle poor education indicators in the province, the Government of Punjab with assistance from the World Bank initiated the Punjab Education Sector Reforms Programme (PESRP) in 2003. Aside from implementing World Bank and Department For International Development (DFID) funded projects across the province, using different interventions like distributing free textbooks, disbursing stipends to female students, providing teacher’s financial incentives for better exam results and running school councils, PESRP through the Program Monitoring and Implementation Unit also collects monthly data from every single public school in the province. This massive database has monthly information for all schools including data on teacher absence (including teacher name and reasons for absence), student enrollment figures, school funds utilization, status of school facilities and status of all PESRP projects in each individual school since 2007. Sadly though, this data is not being used by PESRP or the Punjab Education Ministry to make future policies or evaluations of past interventions. Through generous funding from the South Asia Institute at Harvard University, I was able to travel to Lahore, Pakistan, and meet the team at PESRP to analyze their data and evaluate one Meeting the Program Director of PESRP in Lahore of its interventions. As part of the requirements of my Masters in Public Policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School I’m required to work with a client organization and develop a series of recommendations to solve a policy problem for that organization through a Policy Analyses Exercise (PAE). During my visit, PESRP identified their School Council intervention as one that they wanted to get evaluated. They identified two questions that they wanted me to look at, (i) whether school councils have an impact on a school’s facility/teacher attendance/student test scores and what has been the impact of the various school council mobilization programs. I’m currently digging through the data sets that PESRP provided me in Pakistan and will hopefully answer these questions by mid-March when I complete my PAE. Due to the enormous quantity of data, easily the largest I’ve worked on with entries of roughly 55,000 schools for 60 months over 30 variables, it will require extensive data analysis and advanced econometric tests to answer the questions that PESRP have requested. Other than interacting with my client, I was also able to meet with many professionals in the development sector, who worked at the World Bank and DFID, to hear their views on Punjab’s education sector from the donor’s perspective. I was amazed to find out that DFID’s largest education project in the world is currently being carried out in Punjab, in partnership with the Government of Punjab, and was also fascinated to hear the challenges that they are facing in increasing enrollment rates, test scores and curriculum reform. Even though I have experience of working with Pakistani nongovernmental schools, this was my first experience of engaging with the public sector side of education and I was quite impressed at the programs that the Punjab government, World Bank and DFID are working on. This visit to Pakistan will also enable me to better assist the PESRP, by working for them through my PAE, so that this project could work as a stepping stone for further evidence-based policy making by government institutions in Pakistan. 24
Justin D. Stern | PhD | Architecture & Urban Planning | GSAS & GSD Between Industrialization and Urban Planning: Tata Steel and the Two Faces of Jamshedpur
the generous support of the Harvard South Asia Institute I spent winter term 20132014 in Jamshedpur, an industrial city of roughly half a million people in the Indian State of Jharkhand, 175 miles from Kolkata. My overarching research goal was to trace the evolution of Jamshedpur from a small company town into a sprawling commercial and industrial center, with special attention to issues of urban planning and design. Questions I investigated during my time in the city included: What is the urban character of Jamshedpur outside of the city’s major industrial zones? To what extent has Tata Group and other The imposing entrance to Tata Steel in Jamshedpur major corporations generated a unique urban logic that is more accommodating to issues of quality of life (recreation, efficiency, educational and healthcare facilities, etc.) than the typical Indian city? What are the limitations and human rights issues embodied in public-private partnership in urban planning and city management? And how can the lesson of Jamshedpur, as an inductive role model, better inform other rapidly developing industrial centers in India and beyond? A relatively small body of scholarship has sought to explain the economic, political and planning ideals upon which Jamshedpur was founded at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although an implicit theme of much of the debate on the city’s rapid growth is focused on the role of Tata Group and other corporations such as Lafarge Cement, BOC Gases and Timken, among others, practically all of these studies overlook spatial morphology, planning and design as enabling factors in the city’s rapid expansion and socioeconomic development. Further, of the limited number of studies that confront the spatial morphology of Jamshedpur, few capture issues of housing development, building typology, quality of life and informal settlement outside of the city’s core industrial zone. To this effect, my ongoing research is an investigation into the urban design and planning strategies that have corresponded with Jamshedpur’s growth from a small and remote company town into a metropolis of over 1.4 million residents. From the “My visit has allowed me to think moment I arrived in Kolkata, I quickly learned that more broadly about the relationship Jamshedpur is more commonly referred to as between private enterprise and urban “Tatanagar” or simply “Tata”, an early indication planning and design in the context of of the degree to which the corporate identity of developing countries.” Tata Group is intertwined with the urban identity of the city. Despite the customary impression of industrial cities as dirty, polluted, sprawling production zones with limited recreational features, I found Jamshedpur to be surprisingly clean by Indian and, in many regards, global standards. Frequently referred to as a “model town” for India, Jamshedpur was selected by the United Nations in 2005 for the Global Compact Cities Program, which engages private industry in the city development process.
In many regards, the designation of Jamshedpur as a “model city” for India reflects the potential embodied in publicprivate partnerships in city planning, as well as the capacity of India’s Tier II and III cities to reshape the narrative on urbanization in the country. The issues I explored ranged from specific urban design projects, such as corporate housing constructed by Tata Group, to organizational innovations such as JUSCO (Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company), and more ideological issues such as the concept and questionable nature of the “corporate citizen.” In full, I was interested in taking Jamshedpur as a case study to critically Traditional and modern industry in Jamshedpur investigate the transformative potential of private industry in urban development, as well as the potential dangers of industrial towns that are heavily dependent on a limited number of industries. As a Midwesterner myself, the experience of Detroit provides a cautious tale to some of the difficulties that stand to be encountered by cities that are overwhelmingly dependent on a single corporation or industry. Although the duration of my trip was limited to the short span of winter break, my visit has allowed me to think more broadly about the relationship between private enterprise and urban planning and design in the context of developing countries. In my fieldwork I uncovered two faces to Jamshedpur: first, the impressive industrial plants of the city’s corporate giants, including the massive shop floor at Tata Steel that serves as a testament to India’s industrial ingenuity. Sprawled across a broad swathe of land at the center of Jamshedpur, it is almost as if the grounds of Tata Steel form the nucleus of the city, with all of Jamshedpur’s other businesses, housing, commercial areas and recreational grounds radiating outwards. On the other hand, there is a strong social compact between Tata Group and the city’s residents, although it is important to note that benefits don’t reach all of the city’s inhabitants. Even so, public spaces such as Jubilee Park, which features an impressive statue of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the founder of Tata Group, point to the reciprocal relationship between the city’s industries and urban development. As a first-year doctoral student in urban planning, the opportunity to conduct early fieldwork in Jamshedpur will shape much of my research moving forward and help inform my prospectus and dissertation. I hope to return to Jamshedpur for an extended period during my time at Harvard to continue my inquiry, as well as begin to develop a comparative line of research that relates the role of Tata Steel in Jamshedpur with that of POSCO (Pohang Iron and Steel Company) in the development of Pohang, South Korea.
Andrea Titus | Master in Public Policy | HKS Designing a Sustainable Ambulance System in Karachi, Pakistan
Karachi is a massive metropolis with an estimated 15-20 million people, but it lacks a coordinated emergency response system. In the absence of any public sector efforts to provide pre-hospital care, several private foundations have stepped in to run charitable ambulance services throughout the city. In January 2014, I (along with my classmate Alexandra Raphel) received a grant from the South Asia Institute to conduct research with one of these private foundations – Aman Ambulance – on the operations and long-term financial sustainability of their ambulance system. The purpose of our trip to Karachi was to conduct a series of interviews with key stakeholders in the city’s emergency response network. The results of these interviews, combined with a quantitative analysis of Aman Ambulance’s operational data, will be compiled into a series of policy recommendations that will also fulfill the capstone requirement for our Master’s in Public Policy program at the Harvard Kennedy School. All ambulance providers in Karachi face a number of challenges. Frequent, heavy traffic slows response times. Poor road conditions in certain sectors of the city place enormous wear and tear on vehicles. Ongoing sectarian violence threatens crew safety and diminishes social trust. And finally, poverty and low levels of health insurance limit any organization’s capacity to cover its operating costs. Our trip to Karachi was a chance to examine each of these issues more deeply, and to understand how our partner organization, Aman Ambulance, works to overcome each challenge in turn. Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre With the support of the South Asia Institute and the Aman Foundation, we met with the key members of Aman Ambulance’s management team, as well as a number of other stakeholders in Karachi’s emergency response network. For example, we interviewed Aman Ambulance’s two main “competitors” – the Edhi Foundation and the Chhipa Welfare Association – about the landscape for ambulances in the city and the challenges faced by all providers. In addition, we interviewed the heads of emergency departments at several of the largest public and private hospitals, including the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (pictured above) to understand how ambulances contribute to the care of critically injured or sick patients. We also had the opportunity to attend the 2 nd Pakistan Urban Forum, where we learned about planning for disaster response on a city level in the South Asian context. The opportunity to conduct interviews with our partner organization and other stakeholders in Karachi’s emergency response system was an invaluable addition to our research. It enabled us to better understand the unique value that Aman Ambulance – as the only ambulance system in the city with advanced life support equipment – brings to pre-hospital emergency care, particularly in the context of high rates of traumatic injury. It also allowed us to explore how partnerships among key players could lead to more effective emergency response in Karachi, which in turn could serve as a model for other South Asian cities. Our final policy report will be completed in late March 2014.
Lydia Walker | PhD | Department of History | GSAS National Separatist Movements in the Early 1960s in South Asia and Southern Africa
The South Asia Institute generously supported my preliminary dissertation research trip to Teen Murti (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library) for January 2014. This was my first time conducting primary historical research in South Asia, and it was a wonderful and wonderfully productive experience. I am building a connective project on national separatist movements in the early 1960s in South Asia and Southern Africa. My plan was to use the brief period of the January winter session to lay the groundwork for a more extensive Lydia Walker in front of the research trip for the academic year 2015 Nehru Memorial Museum and -2016 (what will be my G4 year). I Library. wanted to focus on what is available in the archival record relating to the 1964-1966 Naga Peace Commission between the Indian government and the Naga National Council. I became very familiar with the indexes for Teen Murti’s manuscript collections, thanks to the kind help of their knowledgeable archivists, and I found quite interesting material relating to the Peace Commission. I also was able to gain access to some of the closed collections, something I had hoped would be possible, but was not sure as my trip was so brief. However, I also found much, much more – the complete record of the Indian office for an international Non-Governmental Organization that dealt with issues of anti-colonial nationalism worldwide, at the same that a number of its principals were involved with the Peace Commission. Tracking down the papers of this organization’s European and North American offices will be one of my summer research projects.
What was originally meant to be a preliminary research trip, morphed into a rather substantial research, far exceeding my expectations.
I had a number of other ‘finds,’ research discoveries which will shape my dissertation project in previously unforeseen ways – fleshing out previously nebulous ideas, and giving it the potential to be something new and groundbreaking while solidly rooted in the archival record. Therefore, what was originally meant to be a preliminary research trip, morphed into a rather substantial research, far exceeding my expectations. My only wish is that I had had more time! Luckily, I plan to return. I was able to accomplish quite a bit more than I had anticipated with my grant – thank you very much to the South Asia Institute for making this trip possible and to Jyoti Luthra, archivist at the Nehru Library, for facilitating such a pleasant and productive research trip. My preliminary research to ‘test the waters’ turned into considerable findings. 28
SUMMER GRANT REPORTS The South Asia Institute offers grants for research and internships opportunities across the region. Students are able to spend the summer term working or conducting extensive research in the topic of their choice. Undergraduate Summer Internships The South Asia Institute partners with various organizations in South Asia to offer internship opportunities to Harvard students. This year, SAI funded undergraduate 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. Jenny Chang | Mechanical Engineering | Harvard College 2016 Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Bangalore
I had the privilege of spending this past summer at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, pursuing scientific research through the Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative. Through this program and the funding of the South Asia Institute, I had the opportunity to do cutting-edge research in the heart of the “Silicon Valley of India”, while being immersed in a rich and exciting culture that was completely foreign to me. Prior to this summer, I had never before had the experience of doing scientific research, which is why the research aspect of this program greatly appealed to me. At NCBS, I worked in the Control and Morphology Lab pursuing research at the intersection of mechanics and biology. Under the guidance of an incredible role model and academic Dr. Madhusudhan Venkadesan, I applied years of studies and theoretical knowledge to practical research. The primary area of research I worked on was the topic of jumping. I performed research on maximum vertical jumping in humans, and used this to design an experiment testing the effects of noise-induced limits to neural control on maximum vertical jumping height. Additionally, I researched force-balancing mechanisms employed by some of the best jumping organisms such as frogs, and used these as inspiration to build a jumping robot with a force-balancing mechanism. Outside from the research experience I gained at NCBS, the most unique and exciting aspect of the summer was the cultural experience of doing research and living in India. By spending ten weeks immersed in the culture and interacting with locals, I got just a glimpse of the diversity of lifestyles, languages, food, history, and religions that India has to offer. Every single weekend, my fellow interns and I explored and traveled to different parts of India, soaking in as much as we could. We hiked the beautiful hills around Bangalore, explored the stunning Mysore palace, meditated in Pondicherry’s alternative lifestyle community, rode through the backwaters of Kerala, sat in peaceful reflection on the banks of the Ganges river, rode elephants at the Amber Fort, and so much more. Through my experiences this summer, I have learned so much about India and also about myself. I now know more than I ever thought I would about all the different starches you can eat in one meal, and I am beginning to figure out how to interact with taxi drivers who don’t speak English. But more importantly, I have a stronger idea of my academic and career interests, an increased sense of confidence in my abilities, and a new group of friends both from nearby and on the other side of the globe. 29
Louise Eisenach | Chemistry | Harvard College 2016 Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Bangalore
This past summer, I was in Bangalore, India, living at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and working at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) as a part of the Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative. I had very few expectations for the summer as India was a very foreign place and I did not know what to expect as to the caliber of research that I would be doing. I worked in the Center for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (CAOS) and IISc in a lab which studies the impact of aerosols upon the global and local climate. As a summer lab researcher, I worked independently on my own project to analyze local aerosol composition and utilize radiation models to understand the impact of daily variations in aerosols in the atmosphere. Aerosols are solid particulate matter in the air including black carbon, sulfates, and nitrates which are the largest components of aerosols and largely from anthropogenic sources. Especially in India, where pollution is not only a health concern but also a climate concern, it was very enlightening to be able to study the impact of aerosols mainly produced by anthropogenic sources on the total radiation from the sun. The models used (SBDART and OPAC) show the radiation absorbed, refracted, and remitted by the different types of aerosols which I studied, eventually showing how the local and global temperature of the atmosphere changes as a result. I tracked daily changes for two months; the data collected and analyzed will be used as part of a larger project to show the impact which aerosols have upon the temperature of the atmosphere. As a cultural experience, I learned a lot about India, its people, and the very unique and interesting culture. I worked with other visiting summer students; it was fun to trade stories and learn about both the differences and the similarities between our experiences as undergraduate and graduate students. My lab this past summer was a dry lab. This gave me the flexibility to travel on weekends and work occasionally from NCBS. As such, I (and the other Harvard students who were a part of this program) travelled around southern India to various cities and states. Through these travels, I experience the unique culture of India, learning a lot about its history as a country and the history of various groups of people living in the south of India. I also had the opportunity to travel to the north of India to Varanasi, New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The history and culture is different in the north of India and it was fascinating to compare my experience in the south with my travel in the north. In the upcoming year, I hope to become involved in a research project on campus. While I do not currently plan to continue to work in the same field in which I worked this summer, I feel much better equipped to take on a research position and contribute meaningfully to a team. I believe that by participating in research at Harvard, I can enrich my education and prepare for my future after I graduate. By exposing myself to research during my academic career at Harvard, I have opened many more opportunities not just at Harvard but post-graduation as well. I intend to pursue research in a lab at Harvard and ultimately write a thesis, combining both my interests in chemistry and earth and planetary sciences. This past summer has been an invaluable experience which has exposed me to the different types of environmental and climate research being conducted and the methodology of such research. I also learned that I am very interested in working a wet lab, having worked in both a dry lab and a wet lab for the past two summers. Although my research this summer was very interesting and the cultural experience was eye-opening, I prefer to collect my own data rather than use data already collected to build models. Personally, this was important for me to understand and for me to grow as an undergraduate as I search for research on campus. 30
Reina Gattuso| Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality | Harvard College 2015 Lokniti Program, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
During summer 2014, I had the good fortune of working at the Lokniti Program with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) as an intern sponsored by the SAI and the Harvard Institute of Politics. The Lokniti Program focuses primarily on quantitative analysis of Indian electoral politics, and the aftermath of the 2014 May parliamentary elections—and the earlier December Delhi elections—was an extremely rich time to be there. While I come from a comparative literature and gender studies background and tend to work more on cultural—rather than electoral—politics, working at Lokniti was a great way to become more familiar with that vital field of knowledge all too often ignored by us in the humanities: surveys. While I was there, Lokniti researchers were analyzing the tail end of surveys related to the Parliamentary elections, while also working on a report about the State of Democracy in South Asia—both projects from which I learned immensely. I also was able to use the time and space at CSDS to pursue my own research interests, which mostly included reading for my senior thesis on lesbian criminality in Bollywood film. CSDS is a vibrant humanities and social sciences research center and a hub of scholarly activity, so it was a great atmosphere to be in and facilitated a lot of academic and personal connections. I first went to Delhi several years ago with a scholarship to begin learning Hindi—which I’ve continued since—and had recently spent fall semester 2013 studying abroad at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi as well. I’ve found in the city an incredibly rich intellectual and political community of likeminded students and scholars, and was absolutely thrilled to able to return to Delhi for the summer through SAI. When my When my friends and coworkers asked me friends and coworkers asked me why I why I was so delighted to be in the city was so delighted to be in the city dedespite the monstrous heat, I’d say in spite the monstrous heat, I’d say in ababsolute earnest that I have a big crush on solute earnest that I have a big crush on Delhi: on its long afternoons working out Delhi: on its long afternoons working out some idea for a paper with friends some idea for a paper with friends over over chai; on its lecture- and music- and chai; on its lecture- and music- and addaadda-filled evenings. I hope to return to filled evenings. I hope to return to Delhi Delhi after graduation for continued after graduation for continued study and study and research, and I’m so glad SAI research, gave me the opportunity to spend time in the city this summer.
Jacqueline Ma | Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology | Harvard College 2016 Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative, Bangalore
During the two months that I spent in India, I often found myself outside of my comfort zone. The first day I arrived, I sat in a rickshaw and didn’t think I would surWorking with my other lab members, vive the short ride. The driver’s constant I was able to learn about science and the lurching and honking made me anxious, so I culture of India simultaneously. In between gripped the seat, trying to stay calm as my performing behavioral tests and analyzing heart raced faster with every bump in the road that we crossed. As I settled into my our data, we would chitchat about room on the campus of the National Ceneverything from the must-see attractions ter for Biological Sciences (NCBS), I found in India to the country’s education system. that I shared my space with geckos and other small creatures. These were harmless guests, but I still yelped the first time I spotted a gecko running across the wall. There were so many things that I did not expect to encounter, but I have learned and grown so much from all my experiences this summer. With the SAI grant, I was given the opportunity to work in a lab at NCBS researching the effects of stress on behavior. I learned how to handle Sprague-Dawley rats and observed their social interaction behaviors after an episode of stress. Working with my other lab members, I was able to learn about science and the culture of India simultaneously. In between performing behavioral tests and analyzing our data, we would chitchat about everything from the must-see attractions in India to the country’s education system. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon tea breaks with my lab mates were considered a daily pilgrimage, which I could never refuse. We would often sit in the open-air café areas to muse about what might have gone wrong in our last experiment or to discuss each other’s plans for the weekend. Over the weekends, I was able to explore the cities of Bangalore, Mysore, Hampi, and Pondicherry to get a real taste of Indian life. The NCBS campus was an oasis of greenery and crooning birds, which provided a perfect surrounding for conducting scientific experiments, but this contrasted drastically with life out in the cities. Within the boundaries of NCBS, we were protected from the chaotic traffic and bargaining shopkeepers, so wandering outside was always guaranteed to be a loud, exhilarating experience. With the other members of the Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative, I roamed the many shops that lined Commercial Street in Bangalore for souvenirs to bring home. We had dosas for breakfast in Mysore before walking through the luxurious Mysore Palace. Feeling daring and invincible, we rode around Hampi exploring the ancient ruins. And in each of these cities, I walked barefoot in at least one temple, wondering at the locals as they practiced rituals and made offerings to their gods. Of all the memories that I have of my time in India, many will remain indescribable. I couldn't possibly put into words how I felt in Pondicherry, as I watched the powerful waves crash on the rocks after sunset, or in Agra, as I watched the sun rise over the Taj Mahal. These are just a few of the moments when I felt so grateful to have had the chance to travel to India. I have brought so many wonderful memories home with me, and I truly look forward to the next time I will be able to return to India. 32
Anne Rak | Applied Mathematics | Harvard College 2016 Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative, Bangalore
Thanks to funding from the South Asia Institute Summer Internship Grant, and the Michael and Ellen Berk Undergraduate Travel and Research Fund Grant, this summer I had the incredible privilege of participating in the Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative. I stayed with five other students on the campus of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), a research institution in north Bangalore, and took a shuttle each day to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), where I worked in a lab that studies motor control and decision making in humans and monkeys. On the weekends, the six of us traveled to other cities in south India—Mysore, Hampi, and Pondicherry, and at the end of the program we took an exciting weeklong trip to north India, visiting Varanasi, Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The Murthy Lab at IISc was my first time really seeing how a quantitative neuroscience lab works. This past spring, I took a class in computational neuroscience, and got some exposure to how neural data is analyzed, but it was much more exciting to get the chance to meet eight different grad students in the lab and ask them about the research questions they were pursuing. Professor Murthy was very supportive and flexible, and encouraged me to help out with whatever project I found most interesting. I ended up working with a dual neuroscience-engineering student on a project using Matlab to model the neural circuits that control eye movements. It was a great chance to develop my confidence in working on problems involving mathematical modeling and coding, and really exciting to discuss the models with the graduate student, Varsha, and Prof. Murthy, about how to use the models to test hypotheses for circuit mechanisms that could explain patterns in eye movement found in empirical data. I relished the degree to which the lab discussed, and often debated, research questions with each other. One of my favorite parts of the week were the journal clubs, where a graduate student would present a published paper whose topic was connected to their own research, sometimes to the lab, and other times to the whole neuroscience department. The intellectual energy in the room during the resulting discussions was so invigorating! I had some familiarity with neuroscience research, reading paper, and coding, but everything else around me was starkly different than I was used to in the US! They say India to foreigners is an assault on the senses, and this is exactly what happened to me when I was first taken around Bangalore by our program advisor Ryan Draft—the traffic was crazy, cows wandered the streets, the clothing was beautiful and bright, brightly painted temples speckled the roadside. I wanted to come to India because I was fascinated by the religious culture, and I wasn’t disappointed. We visited many temples on our various trips, and at one particularly crowded one, I was particularly struck by the atmosI’m pretty sure for now that I want my main phere of the crowd waiting to get in the career focus to be scientific research, but I temple to give their offerings—the best would love at some point to go back to India thing it could be compared to in the US and soak even more of it in, and maybe even would be people waiting in line at an amusement park ride: families with chilstudy some Hindi at Harvard in preparation, so dren babbling excitedly in anticipation. I that I could communicate better. made a point of participating in the standard temple rituals at each temple we visited—if I didn’t actually believe in the divini33
ty of the gods the same way as the rest of those there, I could at least appreciate the ritual aspects. The most concentrated religious energy we were able to witness was when we went to Varanasi, a holy city where dying Hindus go to be cremated and have their ashes scattered on the Ganges River so that they can escape the cycle of life and death. Here we witnessed cremations on the river, joined a huge crowd to watch the daily evening fire offering, and went swimming in the Ganges early one morning. In addition to seeing all the ways religion is embedded in the lives of Indians, I was also exposed every day to India’s infrastructure problems, its poverty, and its gender inequality. I got used to walking around on sidewalks with holes in them, seeing people chuck trash on the side of the road, or burn it. I saw plenty of public urination. In Bangalore luxury high rise apartments propelled by the growing tech industry were being advertised blocks away from where people were living in tents. Travelling around to other cities in India, I realized that sights incredibly disturbing to me, like a baby sitting in the dirt as her parents did road construction work, or a rickshaw driver trying to pull passengers three times his weight, were not anomalies but norms. I was also incredibly bothered by the inequality between the genders in India. Only a select few jobs seemed acceptable for women to work in, and the rest were completely dominated by men. (For example, I was never once served by a female waitress). When our group went out at night, there would be men hanging out on the side of the road, but never women. As I got to know some of my lab mates better, they told me about the atrocious prevalence of sexual assault, which almost never gets reported or pursued by the law. I learned about how families are strongly disincentivized from having female children because of the cost of paying for a daughter’s dowry, and how sex-specific abortion has dropped the ratio of women to men in India to nearly 9:10. One of our tour guides told us the amazing story of how her father advertised in the newspaper to find her a husband. Living in India took a lot of getting used to, and there were a lot of things I saw and learned about that really bothered me. But still, the religious energy, the motion and activity, the degree of human expression, of the place was addicting and is why I’m starting to miss living in Bangalore after just a few weeks back in the US. My time working in the Murthy Lab at IISc made me surer that I want to work in a neuroscience lab at Harvard, and helped me narrow down just what sort of lab I’m most interested in. It confirmed for me further that I do want to keep studying math to build a good skill set for research, but it also made me realize I’m not really satisfied doing just modeling—I really want to do research that explores how computations are physically performed in the brain. I discovered how stimulating it is for me to discuss research in a group, and want to do my best to increase the amount I discuss science both in the lab and in my classes. Talking to the graduate students in the Murthy Lab, I realized that it will probably be very important for me to take a class in systems and signal processing. Honestly, I’m still processing how all the amazing things—both good and bad—that I was exposed to in India affect the way I see the world. I saw up close just how complex and intertwined are the issues that India faces as a developing country, and got an appreciation for how today’s India is shaped and defined by thousands of years of cultural tradition and hundreds of years of being conquered by various invading groups. I’m pretty sure for now that I want my main career focus to be scientific research, but I would love at some point to go back to India and soak even more of it in, and maybe even study some Hindi at Harvard in preparation, so that I could communicate better. I can sincerely say that the past two months have been the most exciting and educational months of my life. Without the South Asia Institute’s financial support, the chances of me getting to experience what it is like living in India would be very slim. This summer gave me the chance to advance my academic exploration while simultaneously being exposed to an energetic, fascinating, and complex culture, and I really don’t think I would trade it for anything. Thank you very, very much. 34
Sara Melissa Theiss | Psychology | Harvard College 2015 | Prasad Fellow VidyaGyan Leadership Academy, Uttar Pradesh
Dreams and aspirations can be born in an instant. One “AHA!” moment has the power to change the future of a student, a family, a country, or even the world. Unfortunately, a lack of access to adequate food, water, shelter and education effectively prohibits thousands of children the opportunity to dream. Dirt floors, hoards of flies and scant instruction time are the realities of many primary and secondary schools in rural India. At home, the situation for students is not much better. Oftentimes, it is worse. Starvation and infection are constant companions to many rural youth whose chances for social, intellectual and moral growth are slim to none. One philanthropic organization is trying to change all of that. The Shiv Nadar Foundation recently launched two residential leadership academies for economically disadvantaged children. Collectively known as VidyaGyan, the leadership academies offer full room and board as well as seven years of schooling free of charge. While conservatively advertised as a radical social initiative that provides a transformational education (“About VidyaGyan,” 2013), VidyaGyan is actually much more… VidyaGyan is a safe haven that provides a truly transformational life experience. VidyaGyan is a place where meritorious children can dare to dream. Spending a summer exploring the educational system in India was both sobering and enlightening. Nevertheless, every experience reinforced the importance of education. For the first time, at VidyaGyan, students were given the opportunity to blossom. The environment at this residential school is in such sharp contrast to the situation at government schools that it is difficult to describe. For example, upon arriving at VidyaGyan, many of the first-year students refused to drink the water. This puzzled me until a teacher mentioned that some of them thought the water was poisoned. The reason? It was clear. Previously, the students had only ever seen brown water. For the students at VidyaGyan, everything is an adventure. Throughout the summer I had the wonderful opportunity to watch the students explore their environment; to see them grow by leaps and bounds. Some students discovered art. Others became enamored by dance. All of them engaged with myself and the other interns in discussions of multiculturalism and debates about ethics. Looking back on my summer, I feel incredibly grateful to have been a part of the VidyaGyan family. Looking forward to the future, I cannot wait to see these students become transformative leaders of India.
Graduate Summer Internships Like the undergraduate 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. Sarah Bolivar | Master of Landscape Architecture | GSD Kopila Valley School & Home, Nepal
This past summer, with grant funding from the South Asian Institute and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, I was able to support Kopila Valley School & Home, an American non-profit based in southwestern Nepal. Kopila Valley manages a home for children coming from destitute conditions, as well as a school for 350 students ranging from kindergarten to 10th grade. I had learnt about the organization from my friend, Kelly, who had been volunteering for almost two years. Kelly’s images of the children and landscape had captivated me, and when I asked if there was any way in which I could contribute, she shared that there were plans for a new school campus and for my potential role as campus master-plan designer. As a landscape architecture student, the opportunity to work with community members in the design and construction of a project filled me with slight trepidation, but overall, a great sense of enthusiasm for the journey ahead. Before putting ideas on paper, I led workshops with the older classes to help gauge the students’ ideas on play and to help them learn about the field of landscape architecture. Exercises included using paper and clay to create various landforms and learn about city development, drawing and visualizing ideal play spaces, and re-imagining the Kopila Valley School neighborhood. Through these exercises, students became designers and learned about the power and potential of physically transforming their environment. In an area where increasing residential and commercial pressures are coupled with little environmental oversight, it will be key for students to become more cognizant of their own impact and role within fluctuating ecosystems. In the midst of leading workshops, I had the great fortune to meet with and learn from experts in the region. One of the more memorable site visits included a motorSarah and students of the school cycle ride over rocky hillsides to the Himalayan Permaculwork on an activity together. ture Center, where I learned first-hand about local plants and permaculture principles. This knowledge was beneficial as Jamie MacDonald, Kopila Valley’s Sustainability Fellow, and I began conducting research for the new school campus’ plant palette. With the support of our community liaison, Sandip Shahi, Jamie and I selected trees with edible and medicinal properties, and built a nursery to accommodate the seedlings. And through Kopila Valley School’s Community Service Day, students helped plant more than one hundred bamboo and eucalyptus plants. It was truly wonderful to work directly with students and teachers and to provide them with a sense of ownership over their new campus.
The actual design process itself was challenging â€“ as it is apt to be â€“ but a source of great fun and contentment for me. Fortunately, Prabal Thapa, the local architect behind the school building designs, provided me with a building layout so I could concentrate on the surrounding spaces. Since the new school campus is located on a slope, surrounded by small homes and agricultural fields, and bifurcated by a ravine, I homed in on water flows throughout the site. Students and teachers work together to plant During monsoon season, heavy trees. rains can wreak havoc on communities. Seeing this phenomenon firsthand made me conscious of where land could easily erode. Thus, the design is composed of a series of sloping terraces that channel water to planted areas, reed bed systems, and the ravine. By integrating terraces with varying slope and aspect into the design, the project tackles water flows, fosters diverse plant growth conditions, and promotes gathering spaces of varying scales. Programmatically, the design encourages children to either play soccer in the large, open field, venture into the forested amphitheater and path systems, or gather in one of the more intimate outdoor spaces. Moving forward, I hope to refine and finalize the plan with the help of Kopila Valley volunteers and community members. The South Asia Institute Graduate Internship Grant provided an unparalleled experience. Through volunteering with Kopila Valley School, I learned about the nuances of managing a design project in an area where there is extreme weather phenomena, little municipal infrastructure, and visibly enmeshed land development patterns. From playing with the Kopila Valley children to constructing a terrace with the laborers, each experience wrought opportunities for self-reflection on my role within community design projects. In the future, I hope to continue working closely with community members to create dynamic, resilient, and inclusive spaces.
Madhav Khosla | PhD | Department of Government | GSAS Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
I spent the summer of
2014 in New Delhi. The summer involved me transitioning from my third to fourth year within the PhD program, and preparing for my prospectus defense which typically takes place in the beginning of the fourth year. The South Asia Institute Grant enabled me to spend three full months in Delhi where I worked towards refining the scope of my project and conducted archival research pertaining to my project. My dissertation focuses on Indian political and legal thought in the late nineteenth century and early to mid-twentieth century. As a project within political theory and the history of political thought, it Although the summer is indeed a very hot time in Delhi rests primarily on interpretive and not the most comfortable period of the year to reside techniques, addressing important there, this summer confirmed my belief that the city is a conceptual and theoretical congrowing hub of intellectual activity and energy… An entire cepts, but inevitably relies on scholarly community from around the world descends some degree of archival material. upon Delhi during this time. I had the opportunity engage Most of the archives for this are with and be part of this group, and I am extremely in New Delhi, especially at the Nehru Memorial Museum and grateful... Library, and other published materials such as the collected works of major Indian thinkers at the time are also available in the city. The summer in Delhi gave me an opportunity to spend time accessing and studying these materials. I took extensive notes, made important advances in my research, and have begun this term at Harvard much better prepared to continue my research. In addition to my dissertation, I spent some of the summer working on an edition of Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters to India’s Chief Ministers, written during his time as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1964. For this project, I had to access a wide variety of Nehru’s writings, which I was able to do while in Delhi. While in New Delhi, I was hosted at the Centre for Policy Research. This is a think-tank with wide ranging and diverse faculty, in fields ranging from law and history to economics and politics. Being situated at the think-tank gave me a quiet place to read and write, and to work on my research. But it also had other advantages, and in particular helped me to be part of a vibrant and active intellectual community. I also helped in Centre out in some of their own ongoing research, particularly relating to the theory and practice of Indian constitutionalism and some recent decisions of the Indian Supreme Court. Although the summer is indeed a very hot time in Delhi and not the most comfortable period of the year to reside there, this summer confirmed my belief that the city is a growing hub of intellectual activity and energy. The Nehru Memorial Library and other libraries as well offer excellent resources and opportunity to conduct research, and an entire scholarly community from around the world descends upon Delhi during this time. I had the opportunity engage with and be part of this group, and I am extremely grateful to the South Asia Institute for making this summer research opportunity a possibility.
Undergraduate Research 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. Zeena Freamoze | Government | Harvard College 2015 | Prasad Fellow Indian Corporate Social Responsibility Research Project, Mumbai
This summer, I returned to my hometown of Bombay to conduct thesis research on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) component of the recently implemented Companies Act of 2013. As a student of political theory in the Government department, I have always been fascinated by the nature of prosocial behavior and democratic institutions. CSR in India touches upon both of these aspects by essentially mandating the redirection of the funds of mid-size companies to philanthropic causes such as the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty and gender equity and women’s empowerment. My senior thesis hopes to explore India’s unique traditions of philanthropy, the role of the government in such a diverse, nascent democracy, and the broader question of how to create and harness philanthropic spirit in the developing world. In the hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of how philanthropy and NGOs have changed in the light of this new act, I also spent the summer volunteering with ACORN International’s The Dharavi Project, a waste and recycling management NGO in the Dharavi slums. In many ways, it was the combination of theoretical research and my real-life experiences working in Dharavi, that have made me decide to eventually pursue a career in strategic philanthropy. I’m extremely grateful to the South Asia Institute for giving me the chance to learn so much more about my city and country than I ever have before. It’s been an extremely memorable summer experience. Of course, as many seniors will probably admit in retrospect, this was not the original topic I had in mind for my thesis. My interest in broadcast journalism and the India media had already partly evolved into a thesis question; it was when the Companies Act came into effect earlier this year that my interest in the topic was truly piqued. I spent the most of the summer conducting a great deal of background research on democratic institutions, Indian constitutionalism and the nitty gritty of the CSR law itself. In the past few months, the law has been actively discussed (and dissected) by the media, philanthropists and companies. One of my most interesting findings thus far has been the largely positive reception that big business in India has given the law. Through interviews and press conferences, I’ve learned that the law certainly has a fair amount of support in the country. It’s intriguing, given that in any country governed by more Western philosophies of democracy, it would be 39
deemed unconstitutional and undemocratic for the represented government to pass the welfare buck on to private enterprise. One of my most valuable interviews was a conversation with Deval Sanghvi, the co-founder of Dasra, a strategic philanthropy organization. We discussed CSR and philanthropy in India at length, but what I found most fascinating was our discussion of the maturation of Indian democracy. India has only just celebrated her 67th year of Independence this month, and yet, the country has made economic and moral strides unexpected of a democracy of her youth. There is definitely a need to provide new models to explain the wonderful democratic experiment that it India, whether they are in the realm of international development, philosophy or public policy. After a semester abroad in Italy, being truly immersed in the world of the Renaissance and its great thinkers, it was thrilling to come home and see just how unique my own country is. Of course, this is not to say that my summer has not been without typical Bombay madness. Working in the Dharavi slums was an experience that was challenging, overwhelming and rewarding. The world of recycling and waste management is full of contradictions that it took me ages to wrap my head around: right next to the plastic pellet recycling chawl was a burning area for toxic materials; in the crates of recyclable paper I would find account statements describing bank accounts containing tens of crores. The experience I had working there complimented my understanding of the CSR law, and gave me a what I believe to be a necessary non-theoretical approach to understanding welfare. When I decided to be in India this summer, in many ways, I was trying to figure out whether or not I truly wanted to return post-graduation, and live the rest of my life here. Conducting research and volunteering in Bombay has reinforced my sense of responsibility towards the country that raised me; but, it has been the warm sense of welcome hereâ€”the way the monsoon cleanses everything, the deep sense of community, the truly inextinguishable sense of hopeâ€”that has made my summer so unforgettable.
Brenna McDuffie | South Asian Studies | Harvard College 2015 | Prasad Fellow American Institute of India Studies Hindi Language Immersion Program, Jaipur
This past summer I enrolled in an intensive, eight-week Hindi language program through the American Institute of India Studies (AIIS), an invaluable experience that would not have been possible without a generous grant from the Harvard South Asia Initiative. AIIS sends students from American universities to its various language centers across India, from Chandigarh for Punjabi to Pune for Sanskrit. In June, I journeyed to the capital of the desert state to learn Hindi in Jaipur, Rajasthan. My time studying with AIIS was certainly transformative: in just nine weeks I noticeably progressed as a Hindi-speaker, made enduring ties with many of my fellow students, and formed valuable relationships with my teachers and other Jaipur residents, ensuring that whenever I return to Jaipur in the future, it will feel friendly and familiar. As a South Asian Studies concentrator, I had studied Hindi-Urdu for two academic years before my summer with AIIS. During first year Hindi-Urdu, my progress felt rapid. In one short month, what once looked like nondescript squiggles on a page transformed into identifiable Urdu sounds and words, and just a few months later I had mastered Devanagari as well. I was therefore disheartened when my progress was not as obvious to me the following academic year. Towards the end of my second year of study, I felt confident in my understanding of Hindi grammar and syntax but had hit a somewhat frustrating wall when it came to my ability to speak the language. I knew that the best way to combat this kind of plateau effect so common to foreign language study would be to immerse myself in a Hindispeaking region, and the AIIS summer language program in Jaipur provided me with the perfect opportunity to do so. In the oppressive heat of a mid-June Delhi (nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to an ill-timed heat wave), thirty-one American students boarded a bus to Jaipur bonded by nothing but our mutual interests in South Asia. I was stunned by the diversity of our backgrounds. The girl sitting to my right was a Government major at UT Austin, the man to my left was a PhD student in the Religion department at Cornell, the woman behind me was studying Geography in Arizona, and the man in front of me made maps. We anticipated having to make a few hours of small talk during our five hour bus ride, but we were forced into a much more intense bonding experience when road work halted our bus for six hours, the sweltering afternoon sunlight beaming through our windows all the while. By the time we arrived in Jaipur a full twelve hours after our Delhi departure, I knew all of my peers’ names, focus fields, and reasons for joining the program. We had already survived our first India travel hiccup, and we had done so together. For the next eight weeks, we spent five hours five days a week studying Hindi side by side, a tight-knit group led by a fleet of teachers who were equipped with inspiring amounts of generosity and care. “Only Hindi!” they would warn us in class, at lunch, or even in the hallways between periods. Though strict in enforcing the no-English-rule, our teachers were kind and patient. “If it’s not challenging, then 41
what is the benefit?â€? they would ask as they answered the same questions and repeated themselves again and again, always with a smile. My SAI-funded trip to AIIS was rewarding in unexpected ways as well. I grew particularly close to a teacher named Prerna, a young woman around my own age. Prerna was a twenty-year-old Masters student at Delhi University, spunky, brilliant and mature beyond her years. During personal Hindi tutorials, Prerna and I would discuss topics that I had been hesitant to breach with my teachers, who were almost all native to conservative Jaipur. We talked about sexual assault and violence against women in India versus in the United States, as well as about feminist activism and the frustratingly gradual improvement for womenâ€™s safety and freedom in India. My conversations with Prerna turned out to provide the fuel for my senior thesis topic. This year, I will be interviewing and conversing with female university students about their perceptions of violence against women and feminist activism in India. My thesis will be an interactive report of these perceptions and their interactions with modern feminist discourse in India, particularly the north. As I drove out of Jaipur two months after I arrived, I had the kind of tears in my eyes and sadness in my heart that I hadnâ€™t felt since my first time leaving summer camp as a child. In a short amount of time, a foreign place and unfamiliar faces had become home and family. I left Jaipur having achieved what I set out to accomplish, confident that I improved my Hindi by leaps and bounds. But I also left with new friendships, new mentors, and the feeling that Jaipur had begun to feel a bit like home. I even left with the favorable bonus of having found direction and inspiration for my senior thesis. I am grateful to the Harvard South Asia Institute for affording me these opportunities.
Ekta Patel | Environmental Science and Public Policy | Harvard College 2015 | Prasad Fellow Vulnerability Assessment of Urban Poor Migrants to Climate Change in Surat, India
After a 40-hour-long journey through planes, trains, and rickshaws, I finally arrived at the place that would be my home for two months. Despite never having been to India before, my Gujarati allowed me to smoothly navigate to the urban village where I had arranged a homestay. It was small, lively. Tea stalls, colorful markets, and cricket matches all defined the village perimeter, and as anxious thoughts about what the summer had in store for me filtered into my mind, I was greeted by the smiles and hugs of my host family (and their neighbors). Despite being exhausted and overwhelmed, I sat around to share stories and gifts with the village children. I was soon given a tour of the three-room home and left to unpack on my own. Glancing at the bed and fan that would define my room, I was hit by a sudden jolt of loneliness and disorientation. I did not want to think about how I was going to gather data for my thesis. I had 64 days left, and all I wanted were my parents and my room. “I have one more interview, let me call you back soon… yes, but mom, I’m really going to miss this place.” I was wrapping up my last day at work, and the interview I had left was with a ward officer five minutes from home. After getting my questions approved by the director of the Urban Health and Climate Resilience Center (UHCRC), I started bidding my farewells to the four colleagues I had learned from and connected with. Jokes about my nervous first day passed around as I laughed energetically while scrolling through recent photos. Elephants, flooded streets, children eating mangoes, groups of sari-clad women around me, and unsanitary roads. The images showed I had worked hard, and I realized none of it would have possible without them. As I took my last auto rickshaw from UHCRC, I knew I had collected enough data to start writing my senior thesis. After all, I had come to Surat for exactly that. I wanted to investigate the vulnerabilities of urban slum dwellers to climate change and the impact of local governance and healthcare on them. Because Surat has both undergone rapid urbanization and dealt with extreme floods and epidemics, I wanted to understand the local experience with it all. My research started quickly. After joining UHCRC to conduct the fieldwork I wanted to, I spent only a few days doing literature reviews and preparing interview questions. With help from local schoolteachers, I arranged four sites for fieldwork and began my first focus group discussion within 10 days. Still, despite having over 40 questions, I was unable to get many of them answered. The first discussion went off rails and arguments over lack of resources heated the room even more. Losing homes and families from frequent floods chipped at the resilience of the slum dwellers I met. Men and women who could not plan their next meal circled me. I felt helpless as they commanded me to do something, anything to help them. I realized that day that if nothing else, I would try my hardest to understand their lives from their perspective—I couldn’t simply frame questions based on what I understood from academic papers. I had to reframe my inquiries taking the local perspective into consideration. As such, I decided to join my colleagues on their projects and spoke to as many people as I could. Working from 9 to 6 each day, I ultimately conducted over 100 interviews and 10 focus group discussions and made human connections I will keep with me forever. This summer experience was instrumental in allowing me to discover what I care about most—academically and personally—and I am deeply grateful for SAI’s support in making this possible. I look forward to dissecting all I have gathered as I write my thesis this fall. 43
Graduate Research With a focus on supporting graduate level dissertations, the SAI graduate research grants allows students to conduct on the ground inquiries and deep dives into the subject of their choice, as well as study language. Mou Banerjee | PhD | Department of History | GSAS From 1857 to 1861: Racism, Colonial Violence and Cultural Solidarity
This summer, I wanted to conduct extensive research on what I hope will be one of the substantive chapters in my dissertation, tentatively titled, “From the revolts of 1857 to the Nil Durpan case of 1861: Racism, colonial violence and cultural solidarity”. I have been fascinated by the number of localized, small-scale patriotic revolts which broke out in and around the Bengal Presidency in the period between 1856 and 1861. I say fascinated, because the accepted historiography of the great Indian Uprising of 1857 usually holds that Bengal remained largely calm and unaffected by these events. Missionary evangelical activity is commonly accepted to be one of the primary causes of disaffection that led to the Uprising. I felt that it would be interesting to try and examine how the Bengali intelligentsia reacted to the smaller disturbances in Bengal from 1856 to 1861, and what role missionary activity played in these events. Studying Duff and Long, along with their cosmopolitan social networks would help me, I hoped, to understand the evolution of Christianity in India as well as to untangle the paradox of Christianity as the catalyst of the modernization impulse in India, and its change over the nineteenth century into a potentially conservative force. In order to carry out archival work, I spent my time mostly at the British Library in London, with shorter forays into the SOAS library and the National Archives at Kew to supplement my research. It is certainly true that the intellectual bhadralok elite of Calcutta turned their faces away from the Rebellion of 1857. Their opinion on the desire to band beneath the Mughal Emperor’s titular sovereignty was that it was a hopelessly nostalgic and untenable project. Evidence of such thinking is apparent in the descriptions of 1857 in contemporary vernacular newspapers, as well as in the biographical reminiscences of intellectuals such as Debendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore. Kaliprasanna Simha, in his “Tales of the Observant Owl”, made fun of the timorous Bengalis who were more content with the pen than the sword, and who took such fright at shadows, that their women had to escort them at night. Yet, a series of disturbances, beginning with the Santal Hool of 1855-56 and ending with the mass disaffection with Indigo planters and their treatment of the ryots, created a particularly tense and uneasy situation in Bengal, especially in the eastern districts of Dhaka, Jessore and Rajshahi. The complex motivations behind these localized movements included both socio-economic and religious factors. Regional patriotisms of the kind that one finds as defining ideologies in both the Santal
Mou Banerjee in the British Library 44
Hool and the Indigo uprisings had a surprising common factor. Both featured as primary grievances the depredations of non-official whites and natives on land-rights that were seen to be held through immemorial ancient customary usage by the original settlers on the land. Some of this customary usage was an invented tradition, nevertheless disaffection ran high. Compounding this disaffection was the interference by planters, landlords, colonial officials, and often missionaries, in religious and spiritual customs of the people. What makes this five-year period so interesting to study in detail is the way the relationship between the official and non-official white population in Bengal shifted and reconfigured itself at moments of heightened political and racial tensions. Changing alliances and partnerships are constituted through the ideological discourses on moral as opposed to political duties and responsibilities. These ideological stances taken by both the evangelical missions and the non-official white population, though always in a state of flux, was seen to be dangerous both to the machinery of colonial administration and the relationship of the empire to its subjects, both white and non white, to say nothing of the relationship between the white and non-white subjects themselves. In this period, alliances between colonial officials and missionaries sympathetic to the plight of the native subjects were seen as a direct threat to the rights of non-official white population. At the same time, the activities of missionaries and evangelically motivated colonial officers was seen to be a hugely undermining factor against the right of the colonial state to administer justice to the colonized native subjects as well as to the non-official commercially engaged white settlers. The intense lobbying that occurred on these occasions to influence the colonial government, both at Calcutta and in London, was usually split between the elite intellectual Calcutta bhadralok associations; the missionary groups such as the CMS (Church Missionary Society), the LMS (London Missionary Society) and the BMS (Baptist Missionary Society); the Plantersâ€™ associations; and the colonial administrative officialsâ€™ associations. The correspondences, memoirs, wills and pamphlets left behind by the members of the different groups, who were all connected to each other, provides an unusually rich and complicated view of the workings of the Company during its end and of the Raj during its early turbulent years. These documents, examined in combination with the extraordinary richness of reportage by the vernacular Bengali press, help us to understand the relationships of both antagonism and alliance between the Indian intelligentsia and the Christian evangelical missionaries and colonial officials. These encounters gave rise to a richly creative arena of social and political self-fashioning, where new cultural, linguistic, political and religious forms of experience could originate while older forms were rejuvenated and incorporated within these newer genres. As always, I am deeply grateful to the South Asia Institute for its generous support of my research. I thank SAIâ€™s benefactors, members and staff, who have, over the last three years, made my predissertation archival research possible. Both my own intellectual progress and the development of my dissertation project are, in a very large part, due to the unstinting encouragement I have received from SAI. Thank you all, so very much.
Jahnabi Barooah | Master of Theological Studies | HDS American Institute of India Studies Sanskrit Immersion Program, Pune
Thanks to generous funding from Harvard’s South Asia Institute, I was able to enroll in the American Institute of Indian Studies’ two-month intensive Sanskrit course in Pune, India. I went into the program expecting to make good progress in my Sanskrit studies. Gladly, it exceeded all my expectations! The course of study there covered several aspects of language study: grammar, reading, writing and speaking. Everyday we would devote nearly an hour to chanting grammatical paradigms in the traditional style. On occasion, we even had to recite them backwards. This was a beneficial exercise for me. Now that I’m back in Harvard, I plan to devote time each week chanting paradigms, both backward and forward. I made good progress in reading Sanskrit literature. In the program, we read from different genres: story literature, epic, drama, classical poetry, literary theory and religious texts. I especially enjoyed the readings from classical poetry—a selection from Kālidāsa’s Kumārasaṃbhava (“The origin of the young prince)—and literary theory—a selection from Mammaṭa’s Kāvyaprakāśa (“The light of poetry”). Both texts are germane to the higher studies I hope to do in Sanskrit literature and literary theory in the near future, and complemented my academic pursuits at Harvard thus far. In addition, I was able to read one-on-one two of my favorite Sanskrit texts: Kālidāsa’s Śakuntalam and Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda. Several aspects distinguished reading at the AIIS program from reading here at Harvard. First, we were not translating to English. Instead, we were rephrasing complex sentences into simpler sentences in Sanskrit. This propelled me to learn new Sanskrit words daily. It encouraged me not to automatically translate to English when I encounter unfamiliar Sanskrit words, and this is something that I have carried forward into my studies here at Harvard. During the course of the program, we were asked to maintain a journal in Sanskrit. Initially, I was apprehensive about composing in Sanskrit but towards the end of the program, I really came to enjoy it. In the process of writing of my final project—a retelling of the disfigurement of Śūrpaṇakhā as found in Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa—I think I began the process of understanding why certain features are ubiquitously seen in the Sanskrit literature that I’m familiar with. These include: stories within stories, long compounds and retelling of incidents from epic literature. The entire program was conducted in Sanskrit and we were expected to speak only in Sanskrit in the classroom. This certainly took some getting used to but overall, I’m grateful that spoken Sanskrit was incorporated into the program. In this regard also, I made steady progress. On our final day there, we each had to give 15-minute presentations in Sanskrit. I did this confidently, something I couldn’t have dreamed of before starting the AIIS program. Given the intensive nature of the program, I barely had any time for sightseeing. But I did take a weekend off to see the Ajanta and Ellora caves and the famous Parvati Hill in Pune. I am tremendously grateful to Harvard’s South Asia Institute for generously supporting my language learning over the summer. 46
Kyle Belcher and Daniel Feldman | Master of Urban Design | GSD Urban Redevelopment in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka
This past summer we had the opportunity to see post-conflict rebuilding efforts firsthand in Learning first hand the stories of Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka. We hoped that by documenting the current conditions of the city what it meant to be in Kilinochchi and comparing that to the city before the during the war was reveling and country’s brutal civil war we could identify impactful, and motivates us to underutilized civic assets that could be integrated into a future master plan. It was our pursue new ways of engaging and understanding before our arrival that the milisupporting the war survivors. tary i.e. government was supporting and not directing the city’s post-war development. Therefore, if we could help map the city’s existing infrastructures and development patterns we could provide the community a tool to aid in their rebuilding effort. Once on ground we would come to realize that while the governments’ actions imply indifference towards redevelopment in Kilinochchi, the entire process is in fact highly controlled and regulated from military offices in Colombo. Unfortunately, the controlling aspect of the development is focused more on specific piecemeal projects and main transportation corridors, but a strategic and/or comprehensive master plan for the city doesn’t exist. Compared to an American context there is no participation or self-determination within the local population with the rebuilding efforts of their town. And because of the strong military presence and tension that remains between the government/military and the local population, it is in fact against the public interest to participate in large discussions about the town’s development. As frustrating as that condition was to witness, these types of insights to how a place rebuilds can only be observed from being on the ground and interviewing locals.
The team is greeted with a traditional Sri Lankan welcome ritual.
We are thankful to have had this amazing experience. It is one thing to discuss these issues in the abstract within a classroom; it is another to have conversations with local officials in their effected community. The Tamils we met throughout the country were also very honored to have students from an American university not only visit their home but more importantly share their stories and their struggles with a new audience. Learning first hand the stories of what it meant to be in Kilinochchi during the war was reveling and impactful, and motivates us to pursue new ways of engaging and supporting the war survivors. We return to Harvard even more motivated to find new ways of empowering the communities in their rebuilding efforts, and look for new ways to continue our work in Sri Lanka. 47
Sourav Biswas | Master of Landscape Architecture | GSD Productive Landscapes of Peri-urban Kolkata: Mapping the resource-recovery processes in the East Kolkata Wetlands
This summer, the South Asia institute grant enabled me to study one of the most fascinating examples of living-systems infrastructure - the East Kolkata Wetlands. As the largest sewage-fed aquaculture system in the world, the East Kolkata Wetlands absorb upto 1000 MLD (Million Liters per Day) of Kolkata’s sewage into a network of more than 250 fish ponds or bheris that utilize the city’s waste as a food source to produce about 13,000 tons of fish every year. Spread over 4,000 ha, the fisheries form an integral part of the city’s ‘Waste Recycling Region’ - a special area of 12,500 ha that falls under the East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority. The region provides direct livelihood to around 80,000 people engaged in fishing, agriculture, and waste recycling. As the urban footprint expands eastward, this ecosystem encounters unprecedented social, economic, and ecological challenges placing East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) as an important site for multi-disciplinary academic research. EKW is a complex socio-ecological system that emerged through a unique combination of infrastructural decisions made in the 1930s that led to the creation of an east-flowing sewage outfall; a series of hydrological shifts that transformed a river to a salt marsh to the freshwater wetland today; and economic incentives to landlords who saw the unique mixture of regular sewage supply and wetland conditions as an opportunity to grow fish commercially. Today, the EKW has to be understood as a constructed hydrological system whose ecological regimes are controlled by fishermen co-operatives in a micro-scale and whose long-term viability is affected by institutional decisions towards infrastructure a metropolitan scale. My research intent for this summer was to understand the system adequately to represent the processes affecting the EKW at the scale of the fish pond, the scale of the metropolital sewage network, and at the scale of the larger watershed to which it belongs. EKW only emerged as an important academic topic internationally as recently as 2002 when it was recognized as a site of ‘international importance’ by the Ramsar Convention. Any kind of ecological research on the traditional practices of the EKW was pioneered by Dr. Dhrubajyoti Ghosh who helped me develop the bibliography to guide my own research. Going through the existing research, I was unable to visualize the system spatially and geographically since they are mainly developed by ecologists or hydraulic engineers. By carrying out my own mapping exercise, I hoped to make apparent the resource-recovery practices within the pond itself and highlight its connection to a larger metropolitan network. EKW is almost larger than the city of Kolkata itself and it is easy to feel disoriented during a site visit where the ponds I mapped from Cambridge appeared much larger in person! Keeping the scale of the 48
site in mind, my study plan involved selecting upto three fisheries co-operatives in order to understand specific practices and ecological concerns. It can be virtually impossible to find specific fisheries on your own and I was grateful for the assistance offered by South Asia Forum for Environment (SAFE) for guiding me through EKW and connecting me to fisherman and managers for interviews. I also learnt a lot from Sashidulal Ghosh who is a fisheries owner himself and uses his ponds as a laboratory to improve traditional aquaculture practices through scientific observation. He was also a former member of the EKW Management Authority - a special governing body formed in 2006 that has allegedly failed to live up to its important role in ensuring the integrity of the Waste Recycling Region. As I closely documented the practices of three fisheries named Natar Bheri, Sukanto Nagar, and Ghushighati, I began to understand the traditional practices of sewage-fed aquaculture as carefully managed eutrophication - where sunlight, plankton, and sewage water interacted in a stabilization pond carefully curated and regulated by a community of fishermen to convert â€˜wasteâ€™ into a source of nutrition for fish. First-hand accounts of activities from pond-bed preparation to harvesting cycles revealed the rich complexity of traditional knowledge. While it was impressive to learn how ecologists are scientifically validating the importance of practices that emerged through trials passed down from generations of fishermen, it was all the more impressive to witness the scale and rigor at which these practices are implemented. However, the livelihood of this region and the hydrological integrity of EKW is threatened by unprecedented rates of siltation in the canals and growing pressures of urbanization. In this scenario, traditional practice should be supplemented by scientific feedback - a process that Sashidulal Ghosh has begun in his own pond. But EKW also has to be understood at multiple scales so institutional support may help counter the issues that fisherman cannot solve with their own resources and so an informed wetland policy can ensure the health of the ecosystem. EKW is a rare instance of a living-systems infrastructure sustained by community-based management and its multi-faceted benefits as infrastructure, ecosystem and social benefits has to be depicted and defended through unprecedented multidisciplinary effort. My contribution to this effort will emerge through visualizing my learnings from this system via original maps and compiling my findings through a videographic essay. The subsequent essay will form a part of an ongoing personal project to create a hydrological atlas of India through watershed mapping and highlights of similarly complex hydrological issues.
Todd Brown | Master of Theological Studies | HDS Sanskrit Language Study in Kathmandu: Buddhist Textual Materials
With the help of funds provided by an SAI Summer Research Grant I was able to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal for seven weeks to learn intermediate-level Sanskrit translation skills by focusing on reading early Buddhist textual materials with traditionally and critically trained instructors from within both the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions. I was also able to journey to Himachal Pradesh, India for an intensive weeklong teaching on a single Buddhist Sanskrit text given by a highly accomplished and respected geshe in the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Before arriving in Kathmandu I had the opportunity to attend a teaching given by Geshe Lhakdor on Atiśa’s Bodhipathapradīpa (Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment), a highly influential text within Tibetan Buddhism. The teaching was arranged and presented in the traditional Tibetan manner at a former monastery which is now home to Deer Park Institute for the Study of Classical Indian Wisdom Traditions (DPI). These teachings—which focused primarily on Tibetan interpretations of the text—were supplemented by illuminating discussion groups comparing the original Sanskrit manuscript to the Tibetan translation, and instruction in classical metrical chanting of the Sanskrit text. Both sessions were led by Raji Ramanan, the senior translator at DPI. Once in Kathmandu I began my intensive language studies. First, in the Boudhanath district with Punya Purajali—professor of Buddhist Studies at Lumbini University, teacher and translator at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, and practicing Buddhist within the Tibetan tradition—for a period of two weeks. The remaining, and majority, of time was spent in the Patan area with Nirajan Kafle, a native Nepali Sanskrit scholar raised as a Brahmin who began his Sanskrit language study, in traditional Hindu fashion, at the age of twelve. I focused on a single text while working with both teachers—the Prajñāpāramitā Chapter of Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra (Introduction to the Practice of Enlightenment) along with its accompanying commentary by Prajñākaramati. My two teachers’ approaches to translating and interpreting texts were quite similar in many regards (such as expressing the importance of strong grammatical knowledge and precise readings of structure and syntax), but were markedly divergent in other areas. Punya Parajuli introduced me to the importance of sources external to the text in the process of translation. He was very knowledgeable in traditional Tibetan translations and interpretations of the text, making me aware of the value that the Tibetan readings offer for translating texts, but also stressing the importance of having a critical awareness and cautioned attitude of reading Tibetan translations onto original Sanskrit texts. Nirajan Kafle, on the other hand, provided no external resources except dictionaries and attempted to discover the meaning of a text within the text itself. We would read many verses of the root text trying to gain a “feel” for the text even before returning to read Prajñākaramati’s traditional commentary. Nirajan also problematized the notion of strict “dictionary readings” of texts, showing me nuances of traditional translation practices that could not be found in available Sanskrit-English dictionaries. 50
Gregory Clines | PhD | Department of Religion | GSAS Participant In The Third Braj Bhasha and Early Hindi Workshop
This past summer, with the help of the generous funding from Harvard University’s South Asia Institute, I was able to attend the Third Braj Bhasha and Early Hindi Workshop, held in the beautiful hills of Bansko, Bulgaria. The workshop brings together scholars and graduate students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds – religious studies, history, comparative literature and linguistics, ethnomusicology, etc. - who all do work in early modern north Indian vernacular languages. This year, participants came from multiple universities in the United States, Canada, England, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, India and Japan. The workshop, which lasted from July 28th-August 7th, was both intensive and deeply enjoyable. Two or three reading sessions were scheduled per day, each led by an established scholar with expertise in his or her chosen text. Readings spanned languages and genre. We read an Old Gujarati text that expounded the virtues and vices of a true or fallen Vaishnava devotee. We romped with Krishna through the forests of Braj while reading Surdas’ playful poetry. We read and analyzed historical poetry that documents one Bundela king’s struggle against Mughal domination. Each new text and genre served to help sharpen my working knowledge of early modern vernacular languages while at the same time highlighting the myriad ways in which those languages were employed and utilized in early modern north Indian society. The trip, though, was not all work. There was a desire among participants to become familiar with and appreciate the culture of our Bulgarian hosts. To this end, two half-day trips were planned, the first to Rila Monastery, the most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, and the second to a local winery. The hills surrounding Bansko, we learned, had been used for winemaking since before the Romans, though with Bulgaria’s entrance into the European Union 2007 came new economic attempts to invigorate the industry. These trips served as a way not only to better understand the sociopolitical history and culture of our hosts, but also helped the group itself to bond independent of our academic work. The workshop was especially helpful and important for me because it was really my first opportunity to meet and associate with many of the preeminent scholars of early modernity in India. My doctoral dissertation will focus on early modern Jain narrative literature and the role Jains played in the larger literary world of early modern India, and this workshop served as an opportunity for me to ingratiate myself into that academic milieu. Many of the scholars whom I read for my general exams this past spring – Allison Busch, Imre Bangha, Thomas de Bruijn, Monika Horstmann – were present at the workshop; all showed excitement about my project and a keen interest in helping me as I continue to formulate the dissertation. These types of connections are key for any young scholars, especially for those at a place like Harvard, where there is relatively little work being done on the early modern period in India.
The opportunity to learn a diversity of methods in approaching texts from these two Nepali scholars; the experience of being able to work with a single text for an extended period of time; and the immediate access to traditional Buddhist learning communities with which to discuss the text one is actively translating and interpreting were all invaluable learning experiences that will inform my future scholarship. And finally, the opportunity to experience living abroad in the historically important and culturally exciting areas of South Asia, and to meet and befriend so many people from other cultures and traditions is always an irreplaceable event. Namita Dharia | PhD | Department of Anthropology | GSAS Ethnography of Workers within the Real estate and Construction Industry (RCI) the National Capital Region (NCR)
The South Asia Institute summer research grant was used for two different purposes in relationship to my dissertation research. The first, to do supplemental fieldwork for two chapters of my dissertation and the second, to explore the possibility of a collaborative conference with locals at the field site near Gurgaon, National Capital Region, India. In the first case, I met with road and bridge engineers to explore the Indian road construction technologies and the possible changes within them in recent years. In these interviews we discussed the central types of road making technologies including casting bitumen and concrete roads. We spoke of changes in governmental approaches to roads and increased emphasis on pedestrian transport and mass transit systems through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. This data pieces into my chapter on urban ecologies in NCR that etches how road construction perpetuates urban development and transforms the social life and space along the roads being constructed. For my second chapter on money, primarily black money and its relationship to formal banking sectors I interviewed bankers and developers who explained regulations placed by the Reserve Bank of India and means through which formal and informal funding intersect within the real estate sector. It is interesting to note that several argued that the Reserve Bank of Indiaâ€™s refusal to let banks fund the purchase of land, as a safety measure to avoid speculation, seems to have backfired into the large sums of black money the real estate sector deploys in its construction activity. This enhanced my chapter hypothesis that formal and informal financial structures are indeed part of the same coin. The second part of my fieldwork involved speaking with my existing contacts on the potential of a collaborative conference to bring my research back to the area studied. I spoke with village elders and a local planner on possibilities. We arrived at the idea of setting up an urban awareness camp for youth next summer that would involve inviting students from high schools and undergraduate colleges in the area to a workshop with urban scholars and rights activists. The intention of this is threefold 1. To work across the intense class and urban-rural divide that grips Gurgaon by inviting students from a variety of schools and colleges. 2. To increase awareness about rights, legislation, and use of urban space within the city. 3. To bring together the viewpoints of not only academic scholars but a variety of people who study urban space including planners, rights activists and local leaders. I am currently in the process of drafting a grant proposal to fund the same. I thank the South Asia Institute for its continued support of this dissertation research.
Vineet Diwadkar | MLA & MUP | Landscape Architecture / Urban Planning and Design | GSD Modelling Mumbai: Human Architectural Currencies
My aim this past summer was to continue collaboration with anthropologist Vyjayanthi Rao on Modelling Mumbai, a research project combining ethnography, video documentation and graphic visualization of the processes underlying Mumbai’s contemporary urban form. Mumbai’s contemporary urban form is characterized by the simultaneous explosion in the growth of informal settlements as well as high-rise constructions. This field visit permitted me to investigate how these contradictory forms of building and settlement were enabled. Although the Municipal Corporation (MCGM) has issued very few permits for greenfield construction, the city has turned into a vast construction site, with high-rise “towers” and road works under construction in every neighborhood, sanctioned under the rubric of “redevelopment” targeting informal and dilapidated settlements. The systematic rise in informal settlement in Mumbai is linked to the introduction of planning tools such as the use of restrictions on built up area to control population densities. Regulations on land ownership and controls on built space on all urban plots were introduced through the MCGM’s first Development Plan in 1964 and remain in force de jure. Yet, since the 1990s when economic liberalization allowed increased flows of capital, new development control regulations (DCRs) have introduced systematic exceptions into the MCGM’s Development Plan. These bypasses grant incentives to private developers undertaking the redevelopment of informal settlements or slums and other forms of dilapidated housing stock. The basic formula involves resettlement of residents into rehab housing units, free of cost to them as well as to the state authority sanctioning redevelopment. In exchange, developers receive the right to sell a preset amount of floor space on the commercial market. Through interviews with a number of residents within existing and relocated slums, we saw that these algorithms for redevelopment and resettlement have generated an urbanism based on new typologies of a parameterized architecture. Interviews with slum rehabilitation architects, construction managers and activists confirmed this assessment. Redevelopment rules grant exceptions to normal development requirements governing building heights, open spaces and setbacks, in order to make the project viable for private sector implementation. These exceptions have partitioned urban space between luxury development and high-rise slums, leveraging low construction costs and high real estate prices, reaping fortunes for developers and political capital for ruling parties. Incentive floor space is consumed either on site or transferred for use at even higher value sites often at a great distance from the original FSIgenerating site. Such transfers create a unique exchange value system between vulnerable citizens and architectural development.
Our initial studies of redevelopment sites across Mumbai reveal new spatial partitioning between lowand high- quality and cost buildings, creating a new visual grammar for mapping emerging forms of social stratification and urban subjectivity. In this emerging city, the frenzy of redevelopment activity has introduced construction as a weapon in a social war that places architecture and spatial design at its center. Although citizensâ€™ rights to shelter and basic amenities are collateral to this process of land capitalization, over time, the assertion of various citizen groups have created new forms of political turbulence. Dilemmas about planning and infrastructural deficits and their resolution by using people as currency interact with one another to create unique political situations in Mumbai and other Indian cities where this formula is now increasingly being applied. The research project builds on our existing archive of materials on the subject. This archive, assembled over the past two years, includes original geospatial (GIS) data and maps, 3D models, diagrams, images, video and interviews. The goal of the proposed project is to turn this archive into a visual presentation that clarifies the underlying processes of slum urbanism. Following this past summerâ€™s field visit, we will be able to present Modelling Mumbai through pamphlet and web-based formats to reach what we expect to be three audiences: those interested in Mumbai and India (researchers, activists, architects, planners, etc); those investigating similar conditions and forms in other sites worldwide; and those developing methodologies for emergent research practices.
Kanishka Elupula | PhD | Department of Anthropology | GSAS Ethnographical Engagement with Caste in Modern Spaces: The Social Lives of Dalits in the Private Corporate Sector
spent six weeks in India to conduct preliminary research for my dissertation prospectus. This was made possible, in part, by a generous grant from the South Asia Institute. My research interests include the politics of the marginalized in India and the social lives of Dalits (former untouchables), especially those who have overcome various economic barriers and are working in private corporate workspaces. My primary goal for the summer was to interview several Dalits in corporate work spaces in order to get an idea of their experiences in India’s liberalizing market economy. The position of Dalits in corporate spaces is somewhat peculiar because, on the one hand, their new occupations distance them from less successful social peers, and on the other they are not fully integrated with their professional peers who generally come from higher social strata. I divided my time between Hyderabad and New Delhi which are two large cities in southern and northern India respectively. Most Dalits who work in corporate settings do not want to be identified as Dalits and they are not very enthusiastic about being interviewed. Most of them who agreed to interview did not wish to be named. Having lived in India for most of my life, I have observed how inequalities and differences based on caste and other social institutions play out in educational institutions and corporate organizations. But I felt that because of a growth in “Dalit politics” and with help from my contacts who are or were student leaders and political activists at top universities, I would be able to find a large number of Dalits who work in corporates and were willing to be interviewed. The Indian media and elite discourses are full of stories about the “race to the bottom” which posits that everybody in India wants to claim a lower caste status and play the victim, in order to gain government largesse. While I never really subscribed to that view, the summer experience reminded me once again that a lower caste status continues to be a source of stigma, and most people who can conceal their lower caste status usually do so. This is especially true of people in “modern” spaces like private corporate workspaces. Benefitting from caste based quotas in public sector education and employment, a small section of Dalits now find themselves in private corporate jobs. Given the hostility many corporate establishments openly express towards affirmative action in India, Dalits in these organizations typically try to conceal their caste identity. Thus, an environment of constant underlying tension shapes the social relationships that Dalits form in this space. I conducted many informal interviews with Dalits in this space, besides talking to academicians and student activists. This has helped me gain various insights into the corporate work space where caste interacts with modern values and reproduces itself, often in new and subtle forms. I tried to find Dalits working in large global corporates, like the top consulting, accounting and audit firms. But it turned out to be very difficult to find such Dalits, as they are likely to be few in number and also very likely to hide their caste identities. I had a very interesting experience interviewing one Dalit who changed his last name to a typical upper caste name, when he worked at a firm in Gurgaon. He said that he was treated with more respect than at any other time in his life and people were generally friendly. He also had the interesting experience of listening in on conversations that were disparaging of lower caste people, especially Dalits. I interviewed several others who were successful in concealing their caste status, because they worked in places far away from their homes, where their names were unfamiliar to others. They had a similar experience of listening in on conversations of upper caste people that they wouldn’t normally hear. Some talked about how they were not actively discriminated against but never really felt like they were among peers because of their different sensibilities. On the whole the experience was enriching and has provided me with sufficient insights to take my research further. I am thankful to the South Asia Institute for making this possible. 55
Laurel S. Gabler | MD | HMS Beyond the Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care Trial: A Qualitative Look at the Community Mobilization Component of the EmONC Trial
With the support of the South Asia Institute grant, I was able to spend 6 productive weeks this summer in Nagpur, India, conducting research on community empowerment efforts to improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes. I worked directly with the Lata Medical Research Foundation (LMRF) under Dr. Archana Patel, a pediatrician and the head of LMRF. In many countries, a high percentage of women still die during childbirth, and many children do not survive past the neonatal period. The NIH-funded Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EmONC) trial was a large, multi-site, cluster randomized control trial aimed at reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity by improving access to quality services. In order to achieve this goal, twohundred and eleven community facilitators in ten intervention groups received community empowerment training on approaches for increasing local engagement with these issues. These facilitators were then responsible for carrying out phase-wise meetings with local stakeholder groups to help them strategize about how to address their communitiesâ€™ most pressing maternal and neonatal health concerns. The facilitators at each of these 11,494 meetings recorded notes, which had not been examined since the conclusion of the trial in 2011. I went to Nagpur this summer with the intention of better understanding the process and impact of the community mobilization and community capacity building component of the EmONC trial. I hoped to use existing qualitative data and site visits to help me learn more about the trial, and to help me design a more extensive study to assess the longer term impact of community mobilization programs. During my time there I had the opportunity to visit 5 of the 10 EmONC intervention clusters and hold discussion sessions with the community facilitators who were responsible for carrying out the community meetings that took place during the trial. I talked to them about their knowledge of emergency maternal and neonatal care and recognition of danger signs, their experiences conducting community meetings, their understanding of community mobilization and community capacity building, the skills they gained from participating in the trial, their current community participation and ways in which they currently solve problems in their communities. I am now in the process of analyzing the findings from these field visits and supplementing them with readings as a preliminary step in the design of a much larger qualitative study to assess the ways in which such community mobilization training can have longer-term impacts on village level health workers involved, and to assess the impact that this empowerment ultimately has on health outcomes. I am working on a proposal for this project to be submitted to the Global Network, which will carry it out at each of the global sites. 56
In addition to conducting discussion groups in the EmONC clusters, I also held discussion groups in 4 of the non-EmONC clusters to get a sense of how the health workers in those clusters compare to the health workers who were trained as facilitators for EmONC. I will be using observations from these discussion groups along with observations from the EmONC cluster discussion groups to help the Lata Medical Research Foundation write a one-page report on the impact of community mobilization training. This will be presented as part of a proposal LMRF is submitting to the government to secure funding to carry out training with health workers across the region. In addition to these discussion groups, I examined existing qualitative data from the EmONC community meetings that had yet to be analyzed by anyone. I am still in the process of analyzing the data from 800 meeting logs, 211 planning matrices, and notes that were taken by field research officers observing the meetings. In addition, I completed analyses of 389 maternal and neonatal death audits that were collected during the trial but had never been analyzed, and I have been using data from LMRF’s extensive Maternal and Neonatal Health Registry to verify the completeness of the death audit data set. I am now in the process of using all this data to help with the preparation of a manuscript on the EmONC community mobilization process. Finally, I spent a lot of time with LMRF’s statistician looking at some of the data from the Maternal and Neonatal Health registry to see if there are any site-specific outcomes worth investigating further that demonstrate the impact EmONC had on the communities in which it was carried out. Specifically, as potential outcomes of interest, I was looking at the location of deliveries, the person performing the deliveries, whether or not a mother or neonate with complications was referred from the community level, and whether or not there were any delays in the referral process. In addition to my EmONC research work, I contributed my knowledge of qualitative research to LMRF’s weekly seminar series and taught a session on qualitative research and qualitative data analysis to the staff at the LMRF office. Finally, perhaps the most exciting thing about the summer was the pediatric rounds I was allowed to attend several times at the local government college. There I got to see so many interesting and heartbreaking cases I know I will never see on the wards of the hospitals here in Boston, and I got to learn a lot about how to work in resource limited settings when you cannot do an MRI or CT scan to diagnose a lesion. More, I came back to medical school this year with a new excitement for the type of medicine I want to practice, – pediatric ID in underserved regions of the world – and an even greater appreciation of the ways in which the broader environment impacts health.
Andrew Halladay | Master of Theological Studies | Islamic Studies | HDS American Institute of Indian Studies Urdu Language Immersion Program, Lucknow
My primary goal for this summer was to deepen my understanding of early twentieth-century Urdu literature with an aim towards pursuing doctoral work in the field. In particular, I sought to explore literary representations of the experiences of Indian Muslims at the twilight of the British Raj. To that end, I undertook a study of literary magazines—the primarily vehicle for literature at the time—to discern the extent to which prominent writers both contributed to, and reacted against, the contemporary political debates that culminated in Partition. I maintain that the project is important for two reasons. First, while scholars have acknowledged the centrality of post-Partition literature in constructing experiences of Partition itself, they have given relatively little attention to the Urdu literary landscape immediately before 1947, which was a space upon which political debates were frequently interpreted, embraced, and challenged. Second, my reading of these publications has unmasked rich literary rivalries that are ripe for further scholarly inquiry. Beyond offering a lens through which to better understand contemporary political debates, these competitive relationships point to a continuation of the tradition of rivalry that was central to the earlier mushaira tradition. In this way, the Urdu literary journal— representing though it did the ascendancy of a Western medium and literary forms—preserved and even encouraged one of the pillars of this earlier, and much more thoroughly studied, literary tradition. I am grateful to the South Asia Initiative for enabling me to capitalize on my experience in India. In addition to more formal training and guidance under the auspices of the American Institute of Indian Studies in Lucknow, SAI funds enabled me to utilize archives and resources that would otherwise have been inaccessible. The SAI grant, therefore, was critical in allowing me to both further develop my language skills and to refine my project in light of local resources. This privilege of studying through an SAI grant has, accordingly, left me well placed to further develop my area of scholarly interest—both over the coming academic year and, I hope, during future doctoral study.
Abbas Jaffer | PhD | Department of Anthropology | GSAS Digital Media and Pakistani Rock Music
In the summer of 2014, I undertook digital research and began my yearlong fieldwork on bands in Lahore. My cyberethnographic included mapping connections of music groups together via their personal social networks online and through personal communication, putting together a map of the major sites for contemporary music in the city (e.g. studios, performances spaces), and analyzing online conversation around music videos and singles published online (e.g. threads and comments). I was particularly keen to draw out the salient connections between how bands represent themselves via digital media and how they attempt to cultivate an online community of listeners. What I learned about the membership of these bands and how their music is distributed was invaluable. Personal connections between musicians, public relations heads, media personalities and corporate sponsors play an outsize role in which groups gain the largest amount of public exposure via online and mass media. I discovered how the now defunct record-labels and distributors have been replaced by a much more ad-hoc distribution system, and I aim to understand this further as I continue my fieldwork. As for the geographic aspects of music scene, I combined online geographic information of the location of big studios and performance venues with knowledge gained about home studios and informal venues from interviews. While I have so far confirmed my initial thinking that recording and performance is mostly limited to the Defence and Gulberg areas of the city, urban sprawl has result in home studios and performance spaces popping up on the urban periphery, particularly toward the west near the Ravi river. This, in turn, I found to bear a strong relationship to elite settlement patterns in the city and reflected how rock and pop bands are integrated into elite leisure culture. This summer I was particularly keen to investigate how actively musicians themselves were involved in the conversations around what they produced. My biggest finding was that rather that an online 'community management' model, the dialogue was largely among the fans with little direct participation by the bands, outside of publishing new content. At the same time the digital public around this music seemed to be expanding itself through new online marketplaces (e.g. Tazee.pk) and social media groups. I was able to observe how enthusiasts and commentators had launched newspaper columns in Dawn and The Express Tribune, new online fora had been inaugurated, and how Lahori audiences were also sharing music in vernacular languages they didnâ€™t necessarily understand like Pashto and Dari. The generous support of the South Asia Institute allowed me to think more carefully through the issues of digital-spatial relations and the city in Pakistan, the intersection of corporate sponsorship and prestige among indie bands, and to outline a program of interviews, event participation and observation during Academic Year 2014-2015. I am deeply grateful for the research opportunities I had this summer, and I hope to give back to the community of research and practice on South Asia at Harvard comprehensively upon my return from the field.
Kayla Kellerman | Master of Theological Studies | HDS American Institute of Indian Studies Advanced Hindi Language Program
This summer, with the generous help of the South Asian Instituteâ€™s Summer Research Grant, I have had the great pleasure of spending nine weeks advancing my education in Jaipur, India. In Jaipur, I participated in the American Institute of Indian Studies advanced Hindi program where I was able to gain not only the needed language skills for my academic research, but also irreplaceable experience about how to thrive in all aspects of India. As Masters of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School, I primarily focus on modern Hindu narratives that originated in north India; thus, learning Hindi maintains a vital role in my studies. AIISâ€™s rigorous Hindi program provided priceless speaking, reading, and writing practice in which my own language ability improved rapidly. Since the beginning of the program, I have gone from reading short childrenâ€™s stories to full novels. However, most importantly I was able to acquire the tools to not only obtain the devotional texts related to my field in their native language, but also translate them. Thanks to my amazing stay in India, I am currently working on translating devotional poetry of famous Hindi poets, Kabir and Mirabai. Outside of the classroom also proved to be equally imperative to my growth as a student of South Asia. Living in a large city like Jaipur, gave me the opportunity to learn how to navigate the busy, sometimes chaotic streets of India and the opportunity to speak with many natives of all different backgrounds. From having Hindi conversations with various Rikshaw wallas to locals who make their living by charming Outside of the classroom also snakes, I have gotten to know South Asian culproved to be equally imperative to ture on a very personal level. Throughout the my growth as a student of South program, AIIS additionally offered us many chancAsia...Not only was I able to es to visit different areas of India so that we immersed ourselves in important features of Indian continuously practice speaking Hindi, culture. I particularly took full advantage of this, but also I really got to know the traveling to Pushkar, Tilonia, Agra, and Udaipur people there, allowing me to and seeing the Taj Mahal, many temples, floating understand better the basis for which palaces, forts, and other significant spiritual spots the literature I study comes from. like the Pushkar Lake. Having seen all these miraculous places, I felt completely immersed in the Indian community. Not only was I able to continuously practice speaking Hindi, but also I really got to know the people there, allowing me to understand better the basis for which the literature I study comes from. One of the best experiences I had with the AIIS program, however, was staying with my host family that they provided for me. In staying with my host family, I developed strong relationships with my host parents and my three host sisters. Even though there was potential to have a language barrier, with a mixture of Hindi and English, I learned about their history and background; both of my host parents being retired professors of art. Today, I am still in touch with all of my family and am already making preparations to visit them in the hopefully near future.
Joseph Kimmel | Master of Theological Studies | HDS The Kingdom of God among Nepalese and American Clergy
This past summer I received a grant to fund a theological research project based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The purpose of the project was to compare the conceptualization and practice of the Christian theological tenet of the “kingdom of God” between two groups of Christian pastors: one group based in the Cambridge, MA area and another in and around Kathmandu. The idea that Christians in South Asia must necessarily develop a theology that differs in important respects from that which is espoused by Christians in other parts of the world has been argued strongly by theologians like the Sri Lankan Jesuit liberation theologian, Aloysius Pieris. Pieris contends, for instance, that theological concepts like the kingdom of God, in order to be intelligible and useful in a South Asian context, must emphasize facets (such as a value for religious traditions outside of Christianity) that may not appear as strongly in Western understandings of the concept. The purpose of my project was not so much to substantiate Pieris’ argument but to see if real differences in theological understandings can be identified between Christian leaders in two different cultural contexts—to see if in fact the kingdom of God, specifically, appears differently to Christians in Nepal and America. After interviewing six Christian pastors in the Cambridge area last spring (a number I intend to increase through additional interviews this fall), I spent the end of May and all of June 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I interviewed eight Christian church leaders. Besides background demographic questions (e.g., denomination, annual church budget, highest level of education/theological training), my interview protocol consisted of questions including: How do you understand the phrase ‘the Kingdom of God’? How would you explain the phrase to a small child? Do you/your church have a role in God’s Kingdom? If so, how do you understand your role? Where is the Kingdom? What is the relationship of the Kingdom of God and non-Christians? How have you developed your understanding of this concept (based on what sources or experiences)? Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes and was audio recorded to aid in data analysis. After conducting each interview, I then transferred the individual’s responses in summary form onto a spreadsheet through which the answers of all the interviewees could be easily compared. This comparison revealed several notable results: 1) In response to the question about how one understands the phrase ‘the Kingdom of God,’ while American pastors endorsed a variety of features—from social justice activities to evangelism to cooperation among Christians—Nepalese pastors overwhelmingly (75% of respondents) interpreted the phrase in the specific sense of evangelism/conversion of non-Christians.
2) Similarly, when asked about their or their church’s role in God’s Kingdom, the vast majority of Nepalese pastors interpreted these roles in terms of evangelism efforts (again, 75% of respondents)—i.e. that their and their church’s purpose in the Kingdom of God is to “share the Gospel” with nonChristians. By contrast, only 33% of American church leaders mentioned evangelism as an aspect of their (or their church’s) role. American pastors tended to endorse a variety of purposes centered around social service ministries, from offering homeless ministries to supporting campaigns for LGBTQ rights. Additional differences were seen in the comments of two Nepalese pastors who suggested that their role was to “encourage other Christians.” Providing such encouragement was not mentioned by any of the American pastors.
A Nepali Pastor outside his church
3) In regard to positive or negative associations with the phrase the “Kingdom of God,” multiple American pastors expressed at least a partially negative association, with one church leader describing the term as an “anachronism” that may be “destructive” due to the negative connotations that may be associated with patriarchy and oppressive monarchs. No Nepalese clergy members interpreted the phrase even partially in a negative light; all Nepalese pastors interviewed described it in strongly positive ways, with descriptors like “Heaven on Earth” and “God’s presence in a person’s life.”
4) Differences in understanding can also be seen in terms of the relationship between non-Christians and the Kingdom of God. Regarding this issue, American pastors expressed a variety of views, with some contending that one can enter God’s Kingdom only after making a decision of “faith” to become a Christian, while others argued that the Bible itself supports the inclusion of all people in this Kingdom and referenced specific biblical passages to support this view. On the other hand, not one Nepalese pastor interviewed believed that non-Christians are members of God’s Kingdom. In this position, they reflected the beliefs expressed by those American pastors who stressed a decision of faith—a conversion to Christianity—as critical for entering the Kingdom. To account for these significant differences in understanding, a couple explanations may be suggested. First, Christianity has been practiced in Nepal for only the last several decades, and the version of Christian theology that has predominated stems from the conservative beliefs of the Protestant missionary organizations which have exerted a strong influence over Nepalese Christians. As a result of the short period of time and especially due to the dominating influence of a few, theologically conservative missions organizations, Christian theology in Nepal has not developed the mix of liberal and conservative strains present, for example, among American Christian communities. Second, historically Christians in Nepal have been persecuted and exist even today as a small and vulnerable minority against which protests are occasionally directed by extremist Hindu factions. In such an environment, cultivation of a plurality of theological views may not be seen as valuable. Instead, theological unity and solidarity in the face of a common threat may be privileged. This need for unity and mutual support is underscored by the comments of the Nepalese pastors who valued “encouraging other Christians” as a significant aspect of their role in the Kingdom of God.
These preliminary results point to significant differences in how Christian leaders from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds interpret the same theological concept. One notable similarity is that while arriving at somewhat different conclusions about the nature of God’s Kingdom and their role in it, both groups of pastors cited the same sources—the Bible and personal experience of God and ministry—behind these conclusions. Both American and Nepalese pastors, both liberal and conservative clergy members, supported their claims by pointing to the Bible and to their experiences of God and of ministering to people. Further research, therefore, could probe more deeply into the intersection of these sources with cultural, social, and economic factors. Incorporating the fields of sociology, anthropology, and cultural psychology, one might investigate, for instance, why the interpretation of a certain biblical passage about God’s Kingdom may differ so radically between two sets of people. Ian Mccormack | PhD | Department of Religion | GSAS The Contributions of the Regent Sangye Gyatso to Buddhism and Polity in Tibet
The primary purpose of this venture was to retrieve texts that are central to my dissertation research. More specifically, the trip allowed me to visit a number of libraries and archives in pursuit of texts (mostly xylograph) authored by the Desi Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705), the political leader of Tibet for around a quarter of a century and, along with his mentor and sponsor the fifth Dalai Lama, one of the architects of the political-religious ideology of the Ganden Phodrang government, not to mention its buildings, rituals, and bureaucracy. As I mentioned, the Desi's texts were until recently largely unavailable, and even now many of the extant copies are incomplete or insufficient in many ways. For instance some are missing folios or very poorly reproduced; others are handwritten tracings of the original prints and therefore replete with errors. Others are not available at all. Due to the poor standards of cataloging and a general reticence (or indifference) to sharing collections of texts, even the knowledge of what is available, and where, is incomplete. Therefore this trip served as a fact-finding as well as a retrieval mission. Based on research performed before and during this trip, I have since been able to build a most comprehensive bibliographical record not only of texts Sangye Gyatso is known to have authored but also the number and locations of extant copies around the world. According to the criteria established in the initial proposal the trip was entirely a success and followed almost exactly the proposed format. The duration of the trip was roughly three weeks, from July 21 until August 11. I spent time at the following sites: Tibet House Library, New Delhi Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala Bihar Research Society Library, Samkrtyayan collection, Patna Central University of Tibetan Studies Library, Sarnath Nepal National Archives, Kathmandu Additionally I directly benefited from interaction with a number of individuals including Mangaram Kashyap (Library of Congress, New Delhi); Tashi Tshering (founder, Amnye Machen Institute, New Delhi); Ngawang Tshepak (head librarian, Sarnath); and Shankar Thapa (professor, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu). By far the most important aspects of the trip were the texts retrieved in Sarnath and Nepal and the 63
personal conversations with Tashi Tshering, whose bibliographical and historical knowledge of Tibetan literature is peerless. In Dharamsala, I located an important verse text by the Desi on the previous lives of the fifth Dalai Lama as well as his lengthy commentary on the same. In Sarnath, Ngawang Tshepak personally and generously gave me not only a xylograph copy of the Rna ba'i bcud len (a text on the fifth Dalai Lama's death and its public concealment) but also a cursive manuscript of an abridged version of the text. This text was granted from the private collection of one Rikya Rinpoche of Tawang (now in Arunachal Pradesh), the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama, which Ngawang Tshepak (also from this area) had personally retrieved. As far as I am aware this is the only copy of this manuscript in existence and it is a crucial resource for further studies of this text. The Nepal National Archives is a veritable treasure trove and may merit a return trip. Their collections include tens of thousands of microfilmed texts as a result of some fifteen years of photographing under the Nepal German Manuscript Project, representing the bulk of the private collections in monasteries and households in and around the Kathmandu valley. There is unfortunately hardly any cataloging here which necessitates the slow process of combing through fifteen years of microfilm documentation. In this collection I located highquality photographs of three crucial texts, of which henceforth no reliable textual witnesses have been available: the Lo gsar 'bel gtam, a text on political speechmaking; and two versified 'khrungs rabs or accounts of past lives, of the fifth Dalai Lama and the Desi himself, respectively. I spent a good deal of money having these texts printed but the state of facilities at this archive is dismal and the copies are almost illegible. Therefore I am still in the process of ordering copies of the film itself, which is an unfortunate but necessary expense. In the meantime I have my own personal transcriptions of key passages. In Bihar, after much formality and much patient negotiation of the museum bureaucracy, I was granted the rare privilege of being able to view texts from the preciously guarded (and slowly disintegrating) Samkrtyayana collection, which includes two texts by the Desi. One of these, the tshogs mchod bca' bsgrigs, is a very important text for my research. At this facility no photography was allowed, and photocopying would not have been possible even if it were allowed; I was only cleared to view the texts under constant and multiple supervision. Therefore I spent two afternoons painstakingly copying out as much of the text as I could. I subsequently learned that the university of Sanskrit and Tibetan in Sarnath has been able to forge preliminary relationships with this archive towards the purpose of eventually scanning these materials, so there is a distant possibility that they will become available in the future, although I would honestly not expect this to happen anytime soon. I also used this trip as an opportunity to purchase a significant amount of Tibetan-language publications not available in the U.S. The trip met every goal from a research perspective although given the constraints of time and money there were not any opportunities to do much more. Apart from several days recuperating from illness in Dharamsala (caused likely by the combination of jetlag, overnight bus travel, and the jarring transition from 105-degree Delhi to the damp 65-degree perpetual rain of the Himalayan foothills in monsoon season) I spent the entirety of my trip either in a library or traveling to one by train, bus, or plane. However the materials I obtained are central to my research, and this alone, not to mention the benefit of personal connections made and firsthand knowledge gained of important text collections, entirely justifies the effort.
Aditya Menon | PhD | Department of Comparative Literature | GSAS American Institute of Indian Studies Intensive Sanskrit Summer Program, Pune
I was not new to me. Sorry, that was a typo, but it might be telling. After all, “finding yourself” seems to be essential to study-abroad narratives. Similarly, the study of a new language can take you to features of language that had remained invisible to you even as you used them. Sanskrit is anything but "new" and, as an Indian citizen, I was not really studying “abroad”. In fact, what I had meant to type was this: I was not new to Pune. My parents live in the area, and I have visited them every summer. There was a difference, though—I was living in the city proper for the first time, and (also for the first time) officially doing something productive, a Sanskrit course at the American Institute of Indian Studies. I had just done a year of completed my first year in the Comparative Literature program at Harvard, and further language study felt necessary. The program was ideal in its combination of regular classes and self-study. Every week had scheduled time for grammar, conversation, journal writing and reading. In small groups, we worked through excerpts from various canonical texts. What I enjoyed most might have been a play by Bhasa; the alternation of lyricism and banter made the language come alive in what felt like its “natural” setting. There Aditya with his Sanskrit Class at the American Institute was just enough irregularity to leave of Indian Studies room for interpretation, keeping us alert to linguistic contexts and to the subject matter. At one point, our teacher switched in to English to tell us about the “subtle feminine jealousy” we were missing. Before enrolling in the program, I had not known that classes would be conducted in Sanskrit. At first this was very frustrating, but it must have helped me start thinking in Sanskrit. It felt a bit ridiculous to use the arbitrary-sounding Pāṇinian terms in place of phrases like “past passive participle”, but it made me wary of oversimplifying the concepts. Sanskrit has made me hyperaware with regard to compounds. The English word “self-study”, which I used above as a literal translation of svādhyāya, is ambiguous. Does it signify study by oneself or of oneself? As for svādhyāya, Wikipedia will inform you that it has “several meanings, including study of the Vedas and other sacred books, self-recitation, repetition of the Vedas aloud, and as a term for the Vedas themselves. . . Some translators simply use the word ‘study’ without qualifying the type of study’.” My svādhyāya consisted of reading the Bhagavad Gita in one-on-one sessions with a professor. For a final project, I tried to read the Gita through Pāṇini’s kāraka scheme— a “deep case” structure, that often (but not always) maps on to the inflection of words. The resulting essay was a 65
mess, partly because I wasn’t sure whether I was using Pāṇini to make sense of Kṛṣṇa or vice versa, partly because it had more typos than anything I have ever written. I claimed that the Gita undermined the common-sense association between grammatical agent, real agent and individual self. Not to translate the Gita’s metaphysics into pedagogy of self-study, but I began to feel that another (but related) “selflessness” could be desirable for a student. One of our instructors at AIIS invited us to question his explanations without worrying that he would take offense. Another urged us to listen to what the language had to tell us, rather than seeing it as a mere instrument. In effect, both were asking us to set aside a petty sense of self. Daily group recitations helped me find a Sanskrit voice that was not just my own. Many of the verses were funny; some felt funnily appropriate to our situation. At least one was explicitly about pedagogy. In Sheldon Pollock’s translation: “A guru transmits knowledge to the dull / no less than to the bright / but he can neither make nor break / their aptitude for learning, / and a great difference in outcome / arises between them. / A polished gem can reflect an image; / a clump of dirt cannot.” Jahnabi, the other Harvard student in our (very bright) group, took issue with the way this verse pretends that “aptitude” is the only prerequisite for learning. I agree that the message is problematic if it entails irresponsibility on the part of teachers and suggests that students are born good or bad. But the verse can be inspiring if we linger over the punchline. Across traditions, the image of the polished mirror signifies spiritual receptivity. Learning by heart is one way to polish the mirror. I was not new to me. So much for finding myself, or rather an image of self-as-Sanskrit student. More importantly, I lost and found a pair of shoes. We were at Kolhapur, a town that hadn’t really figured in my consciousness except as the source of a kind of footwear known as Kolhapuris. The synecdoche had clouded my vision of the place, as if I had been seeing Oxford primarily as a place for Oxfords. But Kolhapur turned out to be a major site of pilgrimage. During our trip to the shoe market, I got bored and strayed back to the temple. I circumambulated the sanctum barefoot and then stepped out of the temple only to find that my shoes were missing. After many minutes of searching, and a couple of phone calls, I realized that they had not been stolen; I had simply left them at another entrance. I felt silly, but sensed something like grace in the fact that the temple had many gates. Now I could relish the irony of having lost shoes in a town of shoes, secure in the knowledge that they had never been lost after all.
James Reich | PhD | Committee on the Study of Religion | GSAS Research on the Intellectual History of Art and Aesthetics in India
With my grant from Harvard's South Asia Institute, I spent my summer traveling across India, visiting archives and photographing manuscript copies of many texts related to my research. My PhD dissertation is concerned with the intellectual history of art and aesthetics in India. I study a number of theoretical texts written in Sanskrit over 1,000 years ago. At the time these texts were written, and for hundreds of years after, they circulated around India in the form of hand-made manuscripts, either scratched onto dried palm leaves or written with ink on birch bark, to be distributed to royal, personal, or monastery libraries. Because of the climate in India, the James with Mr. P.L. Shaji, expert paleographer and physical copies of these books only manuscriptologist at the Trivandrum Oriental Institute. lasted a few hundred years before being rendered illegible by mold or insects, and so they had to be copied and recopied many times throughout the centuries since they were written. This means that the texts we receive as modern readers are the end result of a long game of telephone, with mistakes creeping in here and there and then getting reproduced in all future copies. To responsibly produce a modern edition of a Sanskrit text, one needs to collect all the various versions of the text available around India, carefully compare and weigh the variations, and decide which are the mistakes and which are the original author's words. Although many of the texts I work on have been published, the editions have often been put together carelessly, using only a few of the available manuscripts. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which manuscripts were used, and it is often difficult to tell what decisions the editor made, because no other variations are recorded. For this reason, it was necessary for me to travel to India myself and begin collecting copies of the manuscripts of the texts I study, which are scattered in various state and university archives across the continent. Though a new edition of these texts is still a long way away, having copies of the manuscripts will allow me to cross-check the text in the editions I have and make sure there are no important alternative versions of the text, a task that's especially important when parts of my dissertation sometimes hinge on interpreting a few words or phrases. The grant allowed me to travel to four different archives, in Chennai, Tirupati, Mysore, and Trivandrum, and access their materials. Not only was it helpful to see the manuscripts, but just seeing the conditions in which Indian history is preserved brought me closer to the materials I study. The smell of thousands of dried, dusty palm leaves that have been brushed with lemon-grass oil as a preservative is impossible to describe and impossible to forget. In addition to this, I was also able to spend a week in Trivandrum with an expert at the archives studying paleography, which will help me immensely in reading the manuscripts, which are often written in old and outdated scripts. Finally, traveling around south India allowed me to see large parts of the country I had never seen before, and to explore its culture, architecture, landscape, and religion in ways that will be helpful to my career as an academic for years to come. All this made the trip immeasurably valuable for me, and I am grateful to Harvard's South Asia Institute for giving me the means to take it. 67
Heather Sarsons | PhD | Department of Economics | GSAS Dowry Payments and Female Welfare in India
I spent the summer in Delhi, India, piloting a survey designed to better understand marital practices and their implications for female wellbeing in India. I piloted the survey with another student who is studying at the Kennedy School. We wanted to better understand how parents and children make choices about whom a child will marry and which “spousal qualities” they trade off on. For example, would parents rather marry their child to someone with a university degree who is of another caste or someone While both of us have worked in India who has not completed high school before, this was also the first time we had who is from the same caste? While the run our own survey. We became very choices people make are not so dichotomous, it is important to understand aware of all of the things, small and large, what small tradeoffs might be made if that can go wrong when doing fieldwork. we want to consider how marriage The grant from SAI gave us the norms impact a woman’s wellbeing. opportunity to run a small pilot survey that gave us the experience we needed so that Our survey went through numerous our future surveys are run more smoothly. iterations, starting out as a broad survey designed to gather as much information as possible about women’s marriage and fertility histories, their thoughts about current marriage practices, and their beliefs about how marriage is changing. We eventually narrowed in on specific topics and conducted fewer but more in-depth interviews. The data we collected is currently being entered but we did notice some broad trends while conducting the interviews that will serve as a launch pad for a more directed study. Spending this summer conducting broader and open-ended interviews allowed us to narrow our question and think about how we will best design our future study. While both of us have worked in India before, this was also the first time we had run our own survey. We became very aware of all of the things, small and large, that can go wrong when doing fieldwork. The grant from SAI gave us the opportunity to run a small pilot survey that gave us the experience we needed so that our future surveys are run more smoothly. The grant from SAI also made it possible for us to hire experienced surveyors. This was especially important as we were asking sensitive questions and so needed people who could conduct the interviews thoroughly and professionally. I am immensely grateful for the financial and logistical support that the South Asia Institute provided, before, during, and after our trip.
South Asia in the words of our Grant Recipients
southasiainstitute.harvard.edu CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
A collection of first-hand experiences from Harvard students who spent winter and summer sessions in South Asia with support from SAI.
Published on Nov 20, 2014
A collection of first-hand experiences from Harvard students who spent winter and summer sessions in South Asia with support from SAI.