Symposium de-romanticizes India

MIDDLEBURY — The land of Bollywood, the “call center capital,” creator of curry and home to the Taj Mahal. India is a country of 1.5 billion people with a booming gross domestic product of about 7 percent even during the world’s recent recession.
A rising superpower, India is extremely diverse with 18 official languages and about 700 dialects, is expected to be the world’s third largest economy by 2050, is the largest democracy in the world, and, yet, it’s a country mired in contradictions of religion, ethnicity and language.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Having recently catapulted herself into the economic spotlight, India is increasingly beginning to make her presence felt in the international scene, both of which have prompted academic study.
“There is growing interest about India (and all of South Asia) at Middlebury College. Those who want to deal realistically with the emerging world, in which countries like India and China will play an increasingly important role, need to learn about India,” says Professor Jeffrey Lunstead, Diplomat in Residence at Middlebury College.
So what lies beneath these common perceptions of India?
This is exactly the question the Indian community at Middlebury College will answer in the college’s 2010 Spring Symposium titled “De-Romanticizing India: Domestic Developments and Foreign Policy Outlook.”
“We wanted people to walk away with a full-bodied view of India,” says Vrutika Mody, a junior at the college. “India travels on its own planetary orbit — it is more than an economic powerhouse and more than just another China.”
The purpose of the symposium “is to show India as it is, not in the old clichés inherited from colonialism and Rudyard Kipling, but as a complex, diverse and changing country and society,” says Lunstead.
The symposium will include a variety of events covering India’s art, history, international relations, business and domestic affairs, and will culminate in the celebration of Holi — the Indian festival of color.
All events are open to the general public.
The symposium will start with keynote speaker Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth, who was the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs from 1997 to 2001, is co-author of “Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council (2004),” and won an Emmy in 1983. His lecture will address the constantly evolving relationship between India and the U.S.
The ancient epics of Hinduism have always captured the imagination of intellectuals here and elsewhere. Professor Cynthia Packert, head of the South Asian Studies Department at Middlebury College, in her lecture will offer an interesting insight into the Ramayana in light of contemporary politics and performance.
Other speakers include David Good, the head of the TATA corporate office in the United States and award-winning film maker Ali Kazimi. There will also be panel discussions on foreign policy and domestic issues and challenges of contemporary India featuring professors from John Hopkins University and UVM, among others.
Any discourse on India would be incomplete without a generous sprinkling of Bollywood dance moves, Indian food and cricket. Dance troupes from all over the U.S. will come to showcase their talents in several Indian classical and contemporary dance forms, such as garba, bhangra, kathak and fusion. The “Performing Arts Show” will be an exhibit of India’s vibrant and diverse cultural heritage.
The symposium is the cumulative effort of enterprising students and faculty members at Middlebury College.
Editor’s note: Urvashi Barooah is a student intern at Middlebury College.
Event Schedule
Tuesday, March 2
4:30 p.m., Dana Auditorium: Keynote Address, “The New U.S-India Relationship: Setting the Stage” by Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth.
6 p.m., 51 Main Street, downtown Middlebury: Opening Reception to include meeting the keynote speaker and viewing photo gallery.
Wednesday, March 3
12:30 p.m., Bicentennial Hall Room 216: Lecture: “Piety, performance and Politics: Repositioning India’s Ramayana Epic” by Professor Cynthia Packert.
3 p.m., Middlebury College Museum of Art: Tour at the Museum: Viewing Artifacts and Paintings of India.
4:30 p.m., Axinn 299: “Career Conversation on Indian Economy and Business” by David Good, Tata Group of Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 4
12:15 p.m., Axinn Theatre: Film Lecture and Discussion: “Runaway Grooms — Stories of Arranged Marriages and Dowry Extortion,” by Ali Kazimi, New York University.
4:30 p.m., Hillcrest Orchard: Panel on Indian Foreign Policy and Global Outlook featuring Lisa Curtis and Walter Anderson. Moderated by Political Science Professor Jeffrey Lunstead.
Friday, March 5
12:15 p.m., Hillcrest Orchard. Panel on Domestic Issues and Challenges in Contemporary India: featuring Saleem Ali and Walter Anderson. Moderated by History Professor Ian Barrow.
4:30 p.m., Coffrin Kitchen: Interactive Cooking Class by Gunit Gil, class ’12.
7:30 p.m., Axinn Theatre: Friday film, “Rang De Basanti.”
Saturday, March 6
noon, Coltrane Lounge: Holi “Festival Of Colors” brunch
2 p.m., Battell Beach: Sports and India: Cricket match and Kabaddi game
9 p.m., McCullough: India’s Performing Arts Concert

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