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News Category: News

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.”



Visiting Artist Fellows 2018/19: Aman Kaleem, Filmmaker

Aman Kaleem’s work is personal. Her best-known film, Shaadi, Sex Aur Parivaar (Marriage, Sex and Family) contains significant autobiographical elements, she says, often drawing from the lived experience of a single woman in India. In the documentary, three very different women describe the social, economic and personal challenges of choosing a life partner in India, in a moving, unflinching piece of reportage.

Shaadi, Sex Aur Parivaar came from my anxiety about getting married, and my mother’s disappointment. Despite running my own company, my entire being was reduced to that. So l processed it by making a film about it.”

Kaleem, 30, is one of the four South Asian artists selected as 2018/19 Visiting Fellows at The Mittal Institute. The program, as with most fellowships across the university, is for those who haven’t yet reached their peak and may benefit from a few months at Harvard.

She is the founder and CEO of the artist collective Kahaani Wale, which creates “alternative narratives through storytelling using powerful visual content on social media platforms”. In her early twenties, she founded and ran a company called Red Stone Films after a short spell in the film industry. “I had decided I wanted to be a filmmaker,” she says. “I didn’t want to make other people’s films.” She now sees herself as an entrepreneur, although she still makes films.

She had only been in Boston a few days when she sat down in The Mittal Institute’s lobby to discuss her work and plans. It is her first time in the US. Originally from Aligarh in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, she now lives 100 miles away in the national capital, whose vivid, tumultuous politics are the ideal landscape for her films.

Her latest work is about India’s culture of street protesting. All sorts of people protest about all sorts of things, from the serious, such as the ongoing issue of destitute farmers’ suicides, to the tragicomic: Kaleem meets a woman who’s travelled hundreds of miles and taken to the streets of Delhi to protest against her long-absconded husband. Another of Kaleem’s characters is an unfortunate man who’s protesting the fact that he was legally declared dead – by mistake, of course – a decade ago.

“It’s truly unique,” she says. “But we’re interested in the culture, not the politics. It is very Indian to believe that change can be created this way. I hope the project expands to a point where I have enough collaborators in South Asia to create a repository of content about street protests.”

She plays some unedited footage. These are deeply personal stories that illuminate much broader social issues, a classic technique of journalism. But she doesn’t see herself as a journalist, because she doesn’t attempt to be objective or impartial. She is – and wants to be – connected to her subjects.

This project is the key to her Harvard plans. As personal as her work already aims to be, she wants it to be even more immersive for the viewer, by exploring the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality technologies. To that end, she will connect with innovators at Harvard and elsewhere in Cambridge, including MIT’s Media Lab, in order for everyone to experience the intensity of a few raucous streets in Delhi.



Indian Science Students: Apply Now for Funded Program in Bengaluru

Applications are now open for a two-week immersion course, based at IBAB in Bengaluru, that will introduce the students to some of the most exciting developments in Synthetic Biology. The students are expected to stay on campus for the duration of the workshop. Travel and lodging costs for selected students will be covered.

Advanced undergraduates (at least two years of study) and early graduate students from any scientific/technical background related to the course from an institution of higher education in India are encouraged to apply.

How a Harvard Team is Trying to Reduce Pollution in Delhi

By Gina Ciancone, MUP ’19


Green Screen co-founder Gina Ciancone with the latest prototype, at the UN in New York


New Delhi is not only one of the world’s fastest-growing megacities but also one of the world’s hottest and most polluted urban areas. The intense pollution and heat are interconnected problems, substantially attributed to the 27 million tonnes of agricultural waste annually burned outside of New Delhi, the smoke from which hangs over the city and traps in heat, producing the urban heat island effect on a massive scale.

Green Screen is a zero-electricity passive air cooling panel installed in urban slums, made entirely of agricultural waste. Earlier this year, it won The Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change competition, in which grant prizes will be awarded to interdisciplinary student projects that positively impact societal, economic, and environmental issues in India and Pakistan. Our team developed the idea in The Mittal Institute Director Professor Tarun Khanna’s class on Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Problems.

A hundredth of the cost of a conventional air conditioner, it is an affordable, beautiful product that not only cools people, but also addresses part of why it’s so hot in the first place. Green Screen passively cools homes and reduces indoor temperature in two ways. One is through air compression from the funnel shapes in the panel itself. The second is through the evaporative cooling; it produces vapor that draws heat from its surroundings and cools the area. Since many of the homes in informal communities are made from corrugated metal with voids acting as windows, Green Screen can be attached with a hinge system and can be kept open or closed. This technology has the potential to radically change the environment of urban slums – the areas in cities that expose their most vulnerable to extreme heat and dangerous levels of pollution.

Green Screen will launch in New Delhi in 2019. We are working with Chintan – an environmental advocacy NGO based in New Delhi – and will be meeting them in just a few weeks to conduct a site survey, consumer focus groups and meet key stakeholders. My colleague and I will also be interviewing farmers in the state of Haryana to better understand the behavioral economics of the newly-illegal practice of waste burning. In ten days, I will be going to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas to conduct a technical evaluation of Green Screen from aerospace and sustainability engineers. And this past month, Green Screen was selected from over 250 applicants to be part of the Harvard Innovation Lab Venture Incubation Program.

As part of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018, I was invited to present Green Screen at a closed expert roundtable panel focused on Urban Public Space, with co-founder Ramya Pinnamanenni in New York City. Participants included delegates from the United Nations, UN Habitat, UNICEF, Global Compact Cities Programme, ActionAid, and invited members of the public. Presenting Green Screen to a broad and expert-level audience was an incredible opportunity to showcase the product in a global setting.

One of the session’s key takeaways: while policy interventions are needed in emerging markets, design also has substantial and positive agency in development. As Patricia Holly Purcell from the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme identified, the potential impact of Green Screen can be broadly applied to other vulnerable contexts. Green Screen could be adapted to other countries facing similar agricultural security crises, increasing temperatures, and growing informal settlements, such as sub-Saharan African nations and countries in Central America.

Ultimately, solutions to urban challenges will develop through creative problem-solving. Green Screen uses elements from a designer’s toolkit to integrate experimentation, technological possibility, and business success to arrive at an innovative solution. Showcasing the Green Screen prototype and pitching the venture to global leaders expanded the international community’s interest in entrepreneurial tactics that address urban problems. Similar to the multidisciplinary team composing Green Screen, having the private sector cooperate with local bureaucracies and international governing institutions will enhance adoption, implementation, and enhance the overall success of designed solutions.

Early Green Screen designs and the prototyping process


Defluoridation of Water: Innovative Tech Solutions for a Spreading Health Crisis


Dr. Sanjay Kumar, our India Country Director, introducing the panel at the event titled ‘Tackling Fluorosis: Innovative technology as a solution to the spreading health crisis’ . To his right, Dr. Andrew Haddad, ITR-Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Dr. Sunderrajan Krishnan, Executive Director of the INREM Foundation (middle), and SriKrishna Sridhar Murthy, CEO of Sattva Consulting (extreme right).


The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, put together a panel on defluoridation of water in India, titled, “Tackling Fluorosis: Innovative Technology as a Solution to the Spreading Health Crisis”. The event was part of a project funded by the Tata Trusts-Mittal Institute initiative called “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Innovative Social Enterprises”. The panel comprised of Dr. Andrew Haddad, ITR-Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Sunderrajan Krishnan, Executive Director of the INREM Foundation, and Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy, CEO of Sattva Consulting.

The project looks at scalable and affordable methods of removing fluoride from drinking water in fluoride heavy rural areas, where there is a dearth of access to even the very basic resources like proper nutrition, education, and clean drinking water. Excess fluoride in water can cause diseases such as skeletal and dental fluorosis, which, at their most severe, can result in severely stunted, abnormal growth, and damaged joints and bones. Haddad began the panel by elaborating on both the science behind current defluoridation technology used in India as well as the new technique evolved by Gadgil Lab for Energy and Water Research. The new technology, SAFR (Safe & Affordable Fluoride Removal), proposes using raw, locally-sourced bauxite ore to remove fluoride from water, a method which is 3 to 5 times cheaper, more energy efficient and sustainable than present methods of defluoridation.

Water filtration in Jhabua, M.P an area with high levels of fluorosis. Photograph credits:

Krishnan explained how the fluoride crisis in India is a structural problem, which can only be solved through the interaction of a number of factors such as proper nutrition, alleviating calcium deficiencies, and education. However, the people who generally suffer from fluorosis are those that live in extreme poverty and do not have access to enough food, let alone education. The villagers consider the symptoms of fluorosis in a child as a curse, and tend not to believe that a constructive change is needed in their water source as they have many other issues to contend with. Thus, Krishnan talked about the need for safe water, nutrition management, and behavioural change to work together to solve this crisis.

Lastly, Murthy from Sattva Consulting emphasized the importance of a strong structural ecosystem, where all stakeholders – government, scientists, NGOs, natural resource organisations, and the community – must work together if they want to solve the fluoride crisis on a large scale. He mentioned that Sattva works to join all the stakeholders, to scale up the research and implementation, and help to build local capacity.

Outbreak Week at Harvard

Monday September 24 | Public Lecture | 6pm – 8pm

Conflict and the Global Threat of Pandemics

Geological Lecture Hall, Harvard Museum of Natural History, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138

Register here.

For more information, click here.


Tuesday September 25 | Panel Discussion | 3pm – 6pm

Global Disease Outbreaks: Shaping Public Health Infrastructure & Investments

Kresge Cafeteria, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

Register here.

For more information, click here.


Tuesday September 25 | Public Discussion | 6.30pm – 9pm

Emerging Infections Then & Now

Lahey Room, Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA 02115

Register here.

For more information, click here.


Wednesday September 26 | Symposium | 10am – 1pm

Media in the Age of Contagions

Milstein West, Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Register here.

For more information, click here.


Wednesday September 26 | Film Screening | 6pm – 9pm

Screening of Contagion with a discussion featuring screenwriter Scott Burns & scientific advisers

Harvard Commons, Richard A. & Susan F. Smith Campus Center, 1350 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Register here.

For more information, click here.


Thursday September 27 | Symposium | 4pm – 7pm

Vaccines for Outbreaks in the Modern World

Milstein East, Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Register here.

For more information, click here.


Friday September 28 | Flagship Event | 8.30am – 4pm

Preventing Epidemics in a Connected World

Milstein East, Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Register here.

For more information, click here.

Harvard-BRAC Research Partnership Launches

Alongside our partners – the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and BRAC –  we are supporting an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Harvard and Bangladesh, who are examining a range of issues facing vulnerable populations in and around South Asia. This partnership provides a platform for collaborative participatory research driven by regional needs. Current projects are focused on the Rohingya forced migration crisis, encompassing a wide range of topics, including outbreak surveillance modeling, social network analysis, economic integration, resettlement policies, public health impact, and others.

Visit the Harvard-BRAC Research Partnership website for more information.