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On October 28th and October 29th, the South Asia Institute hosted its Annual Mahindra Lecture featuring photographer Raghu Rai. The lecture was a 2-part event, with a photo exhibit and gallery talk on Monday and the Mahindra Lecture on Tuesday. The event was an insightful exhibition of Raghu Rai’s successful photojournalism career. He provided refreshing and honest commentary about his photography, as well as shared his take on everything from politics to religion. On both days, he took time to respond to questions from the audience about his photography and his career in India.

SAI Director Tarun Khanna introduced Rai at the lecture, saying that Rai’s work represents the complexities of India. Rai is known as a chronicler of India and the subcontinent, and his ability to capture reality that many people do not see has allowed his photos to become powerful political and social commentary. At the photo exhibit, Rai shared samples of his black and white photos, as well as his color photos. Many of his photos capture small moments in the ordinary lives of people, which he described as finding the ‘moment of fulfillment’ in each photo and waiting for something to happen.

During the gallery talk and lecture, he explained his creative process, and shared his personal commentary on the politics, culture, religion and history of South Asia. He has traveled all over India photographing its people, culture, celebrations and landscapes. He described India as a paradise for photographers because of its diverse and colorful culture. He said that the magic of photography is that the world keeps changing, especially in a multi-layered place like India. In the last 18 years, Rai has specialized in extensive coverage of the country. He has produced more than 18 books, including Raghu Rai’s Delhi, The Sikhs, Calcutta, Khajuraho, Taj Mahal, Tibet in Exile, India, and Mother Teresa.

Rai started photographing Mother Teresa in 1970. He described working with her as a ‘divine’ experience, and noted that she was the most loving, compassionate, yet tough person he knows. He also shared his photographs of Indira Gandhi, and his chronicles of refugees from Bangladesh during the war with Pakistan, where he was able to capture the despair and intensity of suffering of the refugees during war.

The event was a departure from the Mahindra Lecture’s previous speakers, who were politicians. The Harish C. Mahindra lecture series, inspired by Mr. Mahindra’s passion for education, is an important component in continuing the education and understanding of the challenges facing the region, and provides an ideal forum for the next generation of global leadership.  It is given in honor of the late Harish C. Mahindra, a distinguished alumnus of Harvard College and a visionary leader of business and industry in India.

To see more of Raghu Rai’s photography, please visit our Facebook page.

To watch a full video of the event, click here.