22 Students from Caltech and IIT Gandhinagar embark on ‘India ki Khoj’

Gandhinagar: The eighth edition of Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN)’s week-long India immersion program, India ki Khoj 2019 kick-started today at the Institute campus. India ki Khoj 2019 is scheduled from December 16 to 22, 2019. This time, a total of 22 students, 10 from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and 12 from IIT Gandhinagar, have come together to participate in this unique cultural immersion program. Interestingly, it is an all-women team participating from Caltech this time.

During the welcome session in the morning, Prof Mona Mehta and Prof Jaison Manjaly, faculty members in the Humanities and Social Sciences discipline at IITGN and coordinators for the program introduced participants with India ki Khoj 2019.

In his welcome address to the participants, Prof Sudhir Jain, Director, IITGN said, “This is a very high-quality program we have tried developing over the years, thinking that it will be a very good opportunity for students from Caltech to come to India and understand this country a little bit. We also hope that this will be a beginning of some sorts where you will get to know a different culture, food, a different type of educational institution here and retain some sort of interest in India. It is designed in such a way that it turns into a kind of cultural exchange between our students and students from Caltech. You will not only learn from the distinguished speakers but also from each other.”

Dr Rajmohan Gandhi, author and historian, delivered the inaugural lecture on ‘Today’s India: Does Gandhi Matter Anymore?’. In his speech, Dr Gandhi said that whether or not Mahatma Gandhi was responsible for the British leaving India is not that significant, because perhaps the British might have eventually left anyway as they were losing resources. However, Gandhi’s big contribution was to convince the leaders of India’s nationalist movement and people to embrace the ideas of an inclusive India that was for everyone, irrespective of religion, caste, class or gender. He advocated for the values of democracy, equality and liberty and these ideas were ultimately accepted and enshrined in the Indian Constitution. This was a big deal because there was a lot of pressure in the backdrop of partition to make India a country for Hindus, just like Pakistan was meant to be for Muslims. India rightly rejected the idea that India should be a country only for Hindus.

He talked about an instance when someone asked him why there was so much violence in India despite Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence. To this Dr Gandhi responded that Mahatma Gandhi tried to teach Indians two things: ‘Fear Not and Hate Not’. However, he had succeeded only in making them understand the importance of ‘Fear Not’ but failed in convincing them about ‘Hate Not’. The current argument by some that India should be a country for Hindus first, because they are in a majority, is part of a global surge in the idea of ethno-nationalism, which is the argument that national identity should be based on a particular religion or ethnicity. As early as 1906, Gandhiji had rejected this idea in his book, Hind Swaraj. If at all Indian democracy has survived for this long, it is because it accepted cultural diversity.

India ki Khoj 2019 will go on till December 22, 2019, during which students will attend lectures like ‘Architectural Landscapes of India’ by Jigna Desai, CEPT University; ‘Imagining India: Many Voices, Many Narratives’ by Madhumita Sengupta, IIT Gandhinagar; ‘Lecture-Demonstration on Indian Classical Music Traditions’ by Srinivas Reddy, IIT Gandhinagar and Brown University; ‘Re-imagining A Queer Future : Creating movements in a hesitant Gujarat’ by Anahita Sarabhai, Founder, Queerabad; and ‘Science in Ancient India: Is it a Myth, Oxymoron or a Reality?’ by Krishnamurthy Ramsubramanian, IIT Bombay; among others.

The participants will also attend a Stand-Up Comedy Show, ‘Second Sex and More’ by Mahila Manch (Women’s Forum), Ahmedabad; and ‘Odissi Classical and Folk Dance Performances’ by P Sudha and her Troupe. They are also going to visit Gandhi Ashram, Old City of Ahmedabad, Lothal, Local Village Communities near IITGN, Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum of Modern Art, and Sarkhej Roja.

Started in 2011, India ki Khoj is an intensive and immersive module which focuses on the understanding and appreciation of India through diverse lectures, activities and field visits. The program is designed and led by members of the Humanities and Social Sciences Program at IITGN to help foreign as well as our own students relate with and comprehend the many layers that form India.