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News Category: News

Work With Us: Communications and Events Intern

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University is seeking an intern for the Spring 2019 semester for its Cambridge office. The Mittal Institute engages in interdisciplinary research to advance and deepen the understanding of critical issues in South Asia and the region’s relationship to the world. It holds regular events on issues relating to South Asia; offers fellowships and grants to further the study of the South Asian region; produces essential research and projects on social, economic, and political issues in South Asia; and much more. This internship is a great opportunity for students interested in a career in marketing, events management, communications, or international relations to learn more about these fields and to build valuable skills in these areas.

This is a paid internship that requires a part-time commitment of 8–12 hours per week. Please note that this internship is only open to current Harvard University undergraduate and graduate students.

The major responsibilities of this position include (but are not limited to):

  • Assisting with the planning, logistics, and publicity for the Institute’s events, programs, and projects.

  • Graphic design for posters, social media, and digital banners as needed.

  • Social media management on platforms including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Aiding in communications tasks, including newsletter planning, article creation, student and faculty outreach, and more.

  • Assisting with administrative and office tasks, including data entry, supply management, filing, and event support.


  • Undergraduate or graduate Harvard student with a focus in Design, Communications, Marketing, South Asian Studies, International Relations, or related fields

  • Experience in Adobe Lightroom, InDesign, and graphic design required
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, WordPress, and social media platforms
  • Excellent writing and editing skills and some office experience

  • An interest in South Asia is preferred, but not required

To Apply:

Please send a brief statement of interest, a resume, and a writing sample to Alex Gilliard at

Application Deadline: February 8, 2019

Professor Pawan Sinha Visits The Mittal Institute’s India Office

Professor Pawan Sinha, leader of the scientific foundation Project Prakash, recently visited the India office of The Mittal Institute to discuss potential expansion strategies and how the India office can help the foundation achieve its larger goals. In addition to his leadership of Project Prakash, he is a professor of vision and computational neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Project Prakash is supported by The Mittal Institute under its “Multidisciplinary Approach to Innovative Social Enterprises” project, funded by the Tata Educational and Development Trust. Project Prakash addresses two compelling and complementary needs: one humanitarian, the other scientific. Merging scientific research with pediatric care, this project provides treatment to curably blind children, illuminates fundamental questions regarding brain plasticity and learning, and creates a comprehensive picture of pediatric health across several sites in India.

India Country Director of The Mittal Institute, Sanjay Kumar, met with Prof. Sinha and Mr. Ajay Chawaria, Executive Director of Project Prakash Trust, to discuss developing and running Prakash Vision Centers and other innovative ideas for the Project. The Mittal Institute plans to connect with business graduates and entrepreneurs who can work pro bono and advise the Project team in their development and implementation of the expansion strategy.

The Project Prakash Trust will also take the lead in curating and organizing a “Dinner in the Dark” that will take place in July 2019 in Delhi, with the goal of raising awareness and fundraising for the Trust. In a unique format, the participants in this event will dine blindfolded to help them understand the life of blind people — especially the children. The Mittal Institute will help Prof. Sinha’s team connect with relevant groups that can assist in organizing the event. 

Understanding the Taboo of Interfaith Relationships: Visiting Artist Profile

Across South Asia, there is often disapproval, to say the least, of romantic relationships between people from different backgrounds. And despite the long, rich and occasionally fraught history of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others coexisting on the subcontinent, inter-faith relationships remain taboo in large swathes of the region.

Samsul Alam Helal is a photographer from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who aims to capture the challenges of such relationships in his home city. He has spent the fall of 2018 in Cambridge as a Visiting Artist Fellow at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. The program enables talented, accomplished artists from South Asia to elevate and share their work with the Harvard community.

Helal’s work aims to tell the stories of people from neglected and minority backgrounds and explore, as he puts it, “their identity, dreams and longings”. His work, he says, “represents a reality in an alternate space”. His ‘Runaway Lovers‘ stories feature couples in Bangladesh who have faced extraordinary difficulties, by any standards, in their pursuit of a life together. 

At Harvard, as well as taking classes about sound and art, Helal has sought to further his understanding of complex socioreligious dynamics and their long global history, in order to develop his own artistic portrayals. He cites the Harvard Art Museum – and especially its Mughal-era miniatures – as a particular source of inspiration but he’s also discovered plenty outside the university. “I found a place near Davis Square,” he says. “A church that Muslims use for Friday prayers. It’s so interesting to see interactions like this.”

It’s his first time in the US and as well as absorbing as much of Harvard as possible, it’s highly unlikely that a photographer – or any artist – could pass up the opportunity to visit New York City, which compared to Boston is “a super-crowded city”, he says. But he comes from Dhaka, which is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with the most notorious traffic jams in all of South Asia. How can New York feel crowded? “In Dhaka, I use my bicycle and I know all the short cuts,” he smiles. “I know when the streets are quiet or busy, and I can judge where I need to go.”

Meritocracy: What Lessons Can India Learn From China?

How should societies identify and promote merit? Enabling all people to fulfill their full potential and ensuring that competent and capable leaders are selected to govern are central challenges for any society. Failure to meet these challenges can have enormous costs, for individuals and for societies as a whole. The richness of China’s historical experience and its distinctive current practices offer useful tools for reflection and comparative analysis. Does the case of China offer any lessons – positive or negative – for India to consider?
The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, have been jointly researching how talent is allocated in a society, how meritocracy has been conceptualized in both India and China, and how its definition has changed over time. Michael Szonyi, Frank Wen-Hsiung Memorial Professor of Chinese History and Director of the Fairbank Center, gave a lecture on ‘Meritocracy in China: Past and Present’ in Delhi on November 27, 2018, as a part of the larger project. 
He illuminated two types of meritocracy in China. The first type includes social, occupational or educational meritocracy, through which every individual is presumed to be able to fulfill their full potential by gaining access to education and opportunities for professional advancement. How can the structure of the educational system ensure equality of opportunity? Szonyi described the second type as a ‘political’ meritocracy, where, in a political system, leaders are selected on the basis of their competency. This system is focused on the evaluation of ability. Szonyi talked about how states tend to use some form of meritocracy to select and promote bureaucrats. 
He discussed the various debates regarding meritocracy, especially in light of China’s growth in the last 40 years and the perception that the West is faltering. With India touted to be the third largest economy by 2030 and China leading the world economy in the coming years, both countries can teach each other how to better manage and operationalize meritocracy and meritocratic systems in an effective way.
Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, and Director, The Mittal Institute, then summarized the key points of Szonyi’s lecture, and opened the floor to audience questions. Szonyi’s public lecture was followed by a workshop the next day on ‘Meritocracy in India and China’, which included eminent scholars of India and China.

Research Fellowship Opportunity: Soft Robotics Kit Project

We invite applications for a research fellow to work with Professor Conor Walsh at the Harvard Biodesign Lab, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in collaboration with the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. Only Indian nationals are eligible to apply.

The project aims to engage students in science disciplines and lower the barrier to participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by developing a line of soft robotic kits. The kits show students possible applications of robotics, such as grasping objects, artificial muscles, locomotion and others. It engages cognitive learning by introducing hands-on skills for prototyping, electronics and programming. More details can be found at

The candidate is expected to have technical and educational skills but also have entrepreneurial interests. The initial year focus will be refining the educational kits, getting feedback from stakeholders (children, educators, government) in India and the US as well as outlining a plan for efforts could be scaled in order to deploy the kits at a number of sites. Experience with teaching STEM topics is preferred, or performing STEM outreach, or developing educational content. 

Candidates should have the following:

  • Master’s degree with 1+ years of work experience; or a Bachelor’s degree with 3+ years of work experience;
  • Passion for education and creativity to help design robotics educational kits;
  • Either Mechatronics/Mechanical/Electrical engineering or STEM education/EdTech background;
  • Excellent communication ability (oral and written) in English; Hindi fluency preferred
  • Strong organizational skills, motivation and desire to work with a team
  • Indian citizenship

Applications, assembled as a single PDF file, should contain a complete cover letter and resume as well as the names and contact information of three references (expected to provide letters of recommendation). 

The position is based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and will require regular travel to India.  

The appointment is for one year as a research fellow with the possibility of continuation for another year. The renumeration for this position is  Rs 33 lakh per annum, approx. 

Queries should be sent to Saba Dave at

Applications should be sent to Conor Walsh at

Deadline: December 28, 2018

Trauma and Memory: Healing Through Art

Kabi Raj Lama


Kabi Raj Lama is a Nepal-based artist and former Visiting Artist Fellow (VAF) at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University. The VAF Program enables South Asia-based artists to spend a substantial period of time at Harvard, contributing to faculty and student scholarship and bringing valuable educational experiences from the university to their work.

The Mittal Institute’s Delhi office hosts a regular series of artist talks as part of our India Seminar Series. Earlier this month, Lama spoke at the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s national academy of arts, which collaborated on the organization of the event in Delhi. His talk, entitled ‘Trauma and Memory: Healing through Art’, retraced his life story; he spoke of art, natural disasters and mental health. The event followed a 3-day workshop on stone lithography with the artist and students at the Akademi. 

Lama’s work reflects the complexities of disasters through an intimate portrayal of personal encounters. He also also looks at how art can be used as a form of healing from trauma. A contemporary printmaker who primarily works with lithography and the Japanese mokuhanga (woodcut) medium, Lama talked about his current project, with a colleague at MIT, that takes his work to a completely new dimension of art therapy and scientific inquiry.

He described his experience with mental health issues following two direct encounters with traumatic natural disasters: the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. He talked about his realisation that mental health is often ignored in the process of rebuilding after such disasters. The Mittal Institute is in the process of building a major project around mental health in South Asia – Lama’s talk showed why this is such an important issue.

New Paper: Look/Act East Policy, Roads and Market Infrastructure in North-East India

The Mittal Institute’s Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian South Asia Visiting Fellow for 2017/18, Dr. Raile Rocky Ziipaohas published a new paper in Strategic Analysis Journal, entitled ‘Look/Act East Policy, Roads and Market Infrastrcuture in North-East India.’


The socio-politico-economic scene in India’s North-east region has guided certain aspects of the country’s domestic and international policy. The Act East Policy (AEP) of the government of India aims to build relations with the countries of South-East Asia, including trade relations, for which the north-east serves as the gateway. This article seeks to analyse the relevance of the policy: How is it grounded in the complex region of north-east India? In what way can it impact the region? The article argues that the new national road infrastructure bypasses the local economy, and posits the need to link rural infrastructure—especially connectivity and local markets—with regional, national and international markets.

Click here to read complete paper


Wintersession Opportunity in India

Eligibility: Any current Harvard undergraduate student, sophomore through senior. While the program’s focus is to use science to inspire students to think about leadership and social innovation, we encourage students from all concentrations to apply.
If you have any questions, please contact Christopher Li (Associate Director) at
More information: Those interested in applying are strongly encouraged to attend one of the two info sessions with Dr. Dominic Mao, Program lead, PSIL:
Monday, Nov 5, 7.30PM 
Thursday, Nov 8, 7.30PM
Venue: Sherman Fairchild 095B (MCB/CPB Concentration Office) 
Faculty Chair: Venkatesh Murthy, Professor & Chair, Dept. of Molecular & Cellular Biology 
Director: Dominic Mao, Lecturer in Molecular & Cellular Biology



Deadline: Sunday, November 11 at 11.59PM

South Asian Art: Collection and Conservation

Sunil Hirani

“It has to be beautiful and appeal to your senses, first of all. Then: provenance, condition, rarity.”

Sunil Hirani is a prolific, passionate collector of South Asian art, and is describing the apparent simplicity of the process of choosing a piece to acquire. The Indian-American businessman displays works by Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza, MF Husain and others at his home in Connecticut, as well as much older, classical pieces. Nothing is hidden away: his children are able to enjoy them too.

Hirani will soon join The Mittal Institute’s Arts Council, which supports Harvard faculty, students, researchers and artists in their studies and practice. Members of the Council are valued supporters of the institute who have a particular interest in the arts of South Asia and its diaspora. The Faculty Director is Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University.

“I was introduced to the institute by some friends,” he recalls. “I have a particular fondness for Indian antiquities and I learned that part of the Mittal Institute’s mission is preservation and conservation. In my trips to India, I found there doesn’t seem to be much focus on these issues and not enough appreciation of the true value of so many priceless pieces.”

South Asia has an almost incomparably rich heritage of artistic works but many have been allowed to deteriorate or even disappear over time. The Mittal Institute is now working with Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, on a major art conservation project, to encourage and empower custodians from all over the region to protect their vital archives.

The Asia Society in New York is currently presenting an exhibition of work by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, which came together just after the Partition of British India in 1947. Hirani is one of the many collectors who have contributed. “We must support these activities,” he says. “We can shine a light on these beautiful objects so that they’re appreciated, and we can encourage museums and other collectors to take care of them and donate them to institutions. We can also fund educational activities and programs.

“At its core, it’s all about education. Huge advances have been made in places like the US and the UK, so if The Mittal Institute and collectors can help transfer this knowledge to South Asia, that would be tremendous.”