“Introducing the South Asia Institute in India” by Michael Hutt
During the first two weeks of February, Michael Hutt (Director of the SOAS South Asia Institute) and Matthew Gorman (Director of Development and Alumni Relations) visited Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai to introduce the new South Asia Institute to alumni, offer holders, business leaders, philanthropists and friends of SOAS, and to both longstanding and potential new partners.
In each city, friends of SOAS hosted alumni gatherings at which Michael Hutt gave a presentation on the vision and aims of the new Institute. We are grateful to Jag Mohan Puri in Delhi, Nayantara Palchoudhuri in Kolkata and Udita Jhunjhuanvala in Mumbai for so kindly organising these functions for us, and to the Puri family, the Bengal Club and the Trident Hotel for hosting them. Each was very well attended and convivial: in Delhi nearly 80 people turned up to fill Jag Mohan Puri’s garden. We were also very glad to welcome other SOAS academics to these gatherings: Lawrence Saez and Philippe Cullet joined us in Delhi, and Rachel Dwyer in Mumbai.
Every one of the alumni to whom we spoke during this tour had warm memories of their time at SOAS, and several informed us that it had completely changed their lives. All were enthusiastically supportive of the School’s decision to further develop its engagement with and academic focus on India and South Asia. During our time in India we also had 1:1 meetings with nearly a dozen of our more influential alumni, with two honorary fellows, and with the Director of the Jaipur Literary Festival. We are delighted that Namita Gokhale and Shiv Shanker Mukherjee have agreed to serve as panelists at the formal launch of the SSAI at SOAS on 18 May.
One of the SSAI’s aims is to enhance and deepen SOAS’s relationships with institutions of higher learning in South Asia. A notable achievement of the trip was the finalisation of a new student exchange agreement with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, whereby students on the Institute’s new two year MA Intensive South Asian Studies will spend the monsoon semester of their second year studying languages at JNU, and JNU doctoral students will come to SOAS to access our library, participate in our workshops and seminars and consult SOAS academics working in their fields. Michael Hutt also paid visits to the National Law University, Lady Shriram College, and the South Asian University in Delhi, Presidency University in Kolkata and Jnanapravaha in Mumbai to explore the scope for new collaborations in teaching and research, and gave a public lecture on ‘The Iconisation of Yogmaya Neupane’ at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library on 6 February.
We had very interesting meetings with senior officials at FICCI (the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), CII (the Confederation of Indian Industries), the Delhi Rotary Club, the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, and the INLAKS Foundation, and with the British Council in Delhi and the Deputy British High Commission in Kolkata. All of these conversations identified areas of common interest and scope for future collaboration: we have agreed to keep talking!