Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump traveled to India for two days. In an exclusive broadcast from Harvard Business School, the India Today News Director Rahul Kanwal discussed the potential impact of Trump’s visit to India in terms of trade, economy, and electoral politics. He was joined by Professor Tarun Khanna (Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute), Punita Kumar Sinha (Founder, Pacific Paradigm Advisors), Ashutosh Varshney (Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences at Brown University), and Vipin Narang (Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT).
Category : India
Over the last three weeks of my winter vacation, I traveled to Hindu temples throughout South India, with the goal of understanding the inspirations and motivations that drove musicians to compose about the idols worshipped at these establishments. Starting from the Eastern temple city of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, I snaked along the Eastern coast of the Indian peninsula, ultimately arriving to the country’s southern tip at Kanyakumari, before continuing through the hill stations of Kerala and ending at Guruvayur, Kerala.
In 2019, the Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change competition awarded the Gramhal team, composed of members Vikas Birhma and Pankaj Mahalle, first place. Over the past year, the funding from the competition has helped take their social enterprise initiative off the ground, and Gramhal has already had a significant impact on the lives of smallholder farmers in India. In the last few months of 2019, over 50 farmers sold their produce — worth USD 100,000 — through Gramhal, receiving a fair and higher price.
Project Prakash recently hosted a successful UnrulyArt event at its center in the Shroff Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi. The participants were Prakash children, who had been treated for congenital cataract under Project Prakash in the last few years. Among the oldest of the Prakash children participating in the event were sisters Bushra and Fatima, who had traveled with their father from Panipat in Haryana, covering a distance of no less than a hundred miles.
Through the Mittal Institute’s South Asia and the Arts Travel Fund, I traveled to Vadodara, Gujarat and Mumbai, Maharashtra in India to conduct research for my qualifying paper, a requirement in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University. My qualifying paper explores the conception of the mother-child motif in ancient India within Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions, and expands on the function and role of these goddesses and the similarities and differences in their worship.
A seven-member delegation from Harvard College recently visited the Indian state of Manipur to conduct the second iteration of the Program for Scientifically Inspired Leadership (PSIL), a program that would encourage local high school students and college-level teaching assistants in a Western-style education format.
Professor Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School, recently traveled to Bangalore to give a talk on her latest book that delves into these issues. The book, Can Science Make Sense of Life?, looks at flashpoints in law, politics, ethics, and culture to argue that science’s promises of perfectibility have gone too far. Science may have editorial control over the material elements of life, but it does not supersede the languages of sense-making that have helped define human values across millennia: the meanings of autonomy, integrity, and privacy; the bonds of kinship, family, and society; and the place of humans in nature.
This January, the Mittal Institute launched a new podcast titled “India In-Focus” in collaboration with The Times of India. The podcast promises to bring one-on-one discussions between faculty and experts from Harvard around the transformative research and pivotal breakthroughs that have the potential to transform how India conducts business, creates new ideas, and tackles pressing social, technological, and environmental challenges.
Recently, Professor Venkatesh Murthy gave a talk entitled “Algorithms and Neural Circuits in Olfaction,” at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bangalore, exploring how animals sense the chemical world to guide their behaviors. “Fluctuating mixtures of odorants, often transported in fluid environments, are detected by an array of chemical sensors and parsed by neural circuits to recognize odor objects that can inform behavioral decisions.
The beginning of 2020 marked a massive celebration of science with the India Science Fest (ISF) in Pune, India, which aimed to bridge the gap between scientists and society and help the youth engage with the latest in science and technology from across the world. The festival, organized by Aspiring Minds and the Mittal Institute, brought the international science community to the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). Social Alpha, the Tata Institute of Genetics and Society, and Google AI Research were key supporters of the festival.
This January, Neha Hiranandani will join us in Mumbai to discuss her recently published book, Girl Power: Indian Women Who Broke the Rules, with Professor Jacqueline Bhabha of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Centering on the challenges young women still face when it comes to access to education and health while negotiating with the societal expectations, Hiranandani and Bhabha will discuss the stories of “rebel women” in India — pondering the factors that contribute to the success of those who break the mold, against the odds.
Recently, Professor Tarun Khanna — Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute — traveled to Bengaluru to give the D.D. Kosambi Lecture, “A Paean to Learning to ‘See’” at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences. The talk was structured around the use of basic analytics to better “see” some overlooked regularities in human behavior — drawing on examples from recent Indian history, including the Partition of British India in 1947 and the annual Maha Kumbh Mela religious gathering, and from contemporary social phenomena.