Boston University students hear it from India: From intolerance to toilets in Dharavi
From ethnic intolerance and cricket to movies and beauty pageants – prominent Indian celebrities (and those of Indian origin) let students of USA’s Boston University (BU) know what was on their minds at the Detour India Fest organised recently by the institute’s Indian Organisation at Kenmore Auditorium in Boston MA .
Speakers at the event included prominent politician-lawyer Kapil Sibal, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, former cricketer Ajay Jadeja, senior vice-president and executive at Bank of America Anu Chitrapu, comedian Rohan Joshi of the AIB group, founder and CEO of the Ibibo Group Ashish Kashyap, founder of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy Shaun Jayachandran and former Miss America of Indian origin Nina Davuluri.
Sibal deliberated on the topic of the history of ethnic intolerance and its effect on the immigration policies globally. It was nothing new and had been prevalent since the evolution of humankind, he said.
Jadeja’s talk with BU dean of the School of Hospitality Administration Arun Upneja focused on why Indians preferred academics over sports. Jadeja’s response was that as a father this question always put him in a fix.
In his conversation with BU professor Shilpa Parnami, Mehra talked about his advertising career and his very first big screen project with Bollywood thespian Amitabh Bachchan. About his forthcoming project, Mere Pyare Prime Minister, he said it was not inspired by the current Indian Prime Minister. One interesting outcome of the project, however, was that he had been inspired to build toilets all around the nation - starting from 800 toilets in Dharavi, Mehra said.
Davuluri highlighted her experience with cultural sensitivity in the US, speaking about her struggles when it came to establishing her identity as an Indo-American Miss America.
Then it was time to talk business as Kashyap, Chitrapu, and Jayachandran discussed innovation and entrepreneurship in the Indian ecosystem. In the session moderated by BU professor Makarand Mody, Kashyap talked about the reverse Indian brain drain concept, elaborating on his life decision to go back to India after his education abroad . Jayachandran spoke about the difficulties of being an entrepreneur and launching his own venture. For Chitrapu,a matter of concern was persistent gender bias and lack of representation of women in her field.
The event concluded with a witty and power-packed keynote speech by Rohan Joshi. He commented on the social and political environment, which on the one hand drove the popularity of comedy in India and on the other led to “censorship of humour.”