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Indian American couple donates $3.5 mn to Chicago University for the revival of Sanskrit language

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Chicago: A whopping sum of $3.5 mn received by the University of Chicago from an Indian-American couple helped establish a professorship for Sanskrit studies. The professorship will assist in advancing the study of the Indian subcontinent.

The act adds to immense contribution by Indian diaspora towards reviving and retaining our culture.

The Anupama and Guru Ramakrishnan Professorship in Sanskrit studies supports a faculty member whose work focuses on the ancient classical language, according to a university announcement.

Gary Tubb, professor in South Asian Languages and Civilisations and faculty director of the University of Chicago Centre in Delhi, will be the first scholar to hold the new position, it said.

“The University of Chicago is world renowned for its excellence in the scholarship of South Asia,” said Martha T Roth, the dean of the Division of the Humanities.

“Guru and Anupama Ramakrishnan’s generosity allows us to sustain that tradition and makes possible the continued rigorous study of the cultural heritage of South Asia through its literary, religious and philosophical texts.”

Sanskrit, the oldest literary language of South Asia, is the longest continuously taught South Asian language at Chicago University, having been offered since the first classes were held at the university in 1892.

Tubb first encountered Sanskrit as an undergraduate at Harvard University. He said he was attracted to the language because it provided “access to a long and rich history of human thought”.

“Sanskrit really stands out among the world’s languages – alongside other classical languages – as being a single language that provides access to an extraordinarily broad range of texts and histories.”

A leading Sanskrit scholar, Tubb examines the tradition’s poetics, grammatical forms and commentarial traditions, and draws insights from the culture’s philosophy, religion and literature. Tubb is the author of “Scholastic Sanskrit: A Handbook for Students”.

Tubb praised the Ramakrishnan family for its support of the Sanskrit scholarship. “It’s fortunate this professorship carries the name of people who have serious interest in and respect for the way Sanskrit is studied,” he said.

The Ramakrishnans’ gift is part of The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, which will raise $4.5 billion and engage 125,000 alumni by 2019. To date, the campaign has raised $2.82 billion and engaged more than 59,000 alumni.

Guru Ramakrishnan, MBA ’88, is a founding partner at Meru Capital Group; Anupama Ramakrishnan is on the advisory board of the Agastya Foundation, a Bengaluru-based NGO that funds and operates educational programmes in rural India.

The couple also supports a scholarship programme for Indian students at Chicago Booth, the Guru and Anupama Ramakrishnan Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“We are delighted to fund this chair in Sanskrit – one of the oldest languages that has given the world the Vedas, Upanishads and other exceptional works of spirituality, poetry, music and dance,” the Ramakrishnans said.

“The University of Chicago’s long-term commitment to scholarship in Sanskrit made it our institution of choice to partner with on this important initiative,” they said.

The University of Chicago is home to a rich array of resources for the study of the Indian subcontinent, including its Centre in Delhi. Currently, more than 60 faculty members are engaged in the study of South Asian history, culture and language.

The University offers instruction in nine modern and two classical Indian languages, including advanced instruction in less commonly taught languages such as Marathi and Telugu. (IANS)

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Issues Over Heritage In Illinois Election Campaign

"We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else"

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Midterm Elections, illinois
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. VOA

In an Illinois congressional district where just six percent of the constituency is Indian American, the incumbent Democrat Congressman is being challenged by another Indian American.

“I see it as American versus American,” Jitendra Diganvker, or “JD” — the Republican challenger for the Illinois 8th district, said.

“Yeah we happen to be Indian,” he added dismissively.

“It is a good thing that members of minorities are running as Democrats or as Republicans,” the incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi said.

The Illinois 8th District is 51 percent Caucasian, 28 percent Hispanic,14 percent Asian, and four percent African-American, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. Of those Asians, about half are Indian, according to the campaigns’ estimates.

Views and policy

In this diverse district, voters care about issues more than identity.

“I don’t care about them being Indian American. I just hope that whichever one wins that they support and help the people,” said Michelle Sims, an employee at the DuPage Community College. “And if you’re Indian then, hey, that’s fine. Just help the people.”

A Jamaican-American university student, Amara Creighton, says she thinks it is great that two minority candidates are running and have support, regardless of their ethnicity.

“I think what’s more important is their views and their policies,” Creighton said. “I mean, it doesn’t really matter to me what their minority is as long as they’re standing up for us and doing good for us.”

This rare instance of two candidates of the same minority running against each other is reflective of a larger trend throughout the United States – record numbers of Indian Americans are running for office and winning their elections.

In 2016, four Indian Americans — one of them being Krishnamoorthi, were elected to the U.S. House and a fifth was elected to the Senate — outnumbering in just one election the total number of Indian Americans to serve as U.S. representatives.

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Incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi goes by his first name, which his constituents can more easily pronounce. VOA

Krishnamoorthi, a businessman and former deputy state treasurer, was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives in 2016. He succeeded Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected that year to the U.S. Senate.

Diganvker is a small businessman, Uber driver, and ardent member of the local Republican party. As the underdog, he is running as a “day-to-day” guy, and says he decided to run because he feels his opponent is out of touch with middle-class, hardworking families in his community.

But his opponent, who is completing his first term in Congress, says he is far from out of touch with his community. He visits each weekend to see his wife and children when Congress is in session.

Though both candidates are immigrants, their views on immigration policy differ. Krishnamoorthi, the Democrat, has been critical of Trump’s policies to decrease refugee allowances and speaks out against family separations at the border.

“We shouldn’t separate parents from children,” he told VOA. “That’s an abomination.”

Though Diganvker, too, opposes family separations at the border, he favors Trump’s promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico and supported the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.

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Republican challenger Jitendra “JD” Digavnker says he is running as a “day-to-day” guy. VOA

“I’m also an immigrant. I followed the legal process and I believe in merit-based immigration,” he said, adding that merit-based immigration “brings the right skill set of people into our country.”

Krishnamoorthi, however, said that his parents legal immigration to the United States has not hardened his immigration stance.

“The fact that my parents came here legally and someone [else] did not, doesn’t mean that we should be inhumane or disrespectful, doesn’t mean we should treat them with anything less than dignity,” he said.

Diverse constituency

Both Congressional candidates are Hindu, but have wooed members of various religions in the community.

“When you come to this country there is no race,” said Farrukh Khan, a Muslim halal-shop owner in Schaumburg. “We should not go for the race, we should go for the people who more care about you and your community. Hindu or Muslim doesn’t matter.”

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Halal shop-owner Farrukh Khan says that he is unconsidered by the religion of either candidate. VOA

So as not to lose a customer, he did not indicate which man he will support in the November election.

Myrna Frankel has volunteered for Krishnamoorthi since his first campaign, an unsuccessful bid for Illinois comptroller in 2010. They know each other through the Jewish Beth Tikvah Congregation in Schaumburg where the congressman, who lives a few blocks away, sent his children for nursery school.

“He considers himself a JewDu – half Jewish, half Hindu,” she recounted with a laugh.

Myrna’s husband, Robert, said that this diversity and community relationships are typical of their community.

“Our state senator is from Mexico. Our state representative is from Puerto Rico. Our junior senator is of Thai background,” he said.

“We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else,” he said.

Also Read: Democrats Gain Fundraising Advantage In The US Midterm Elections

When it comes to policy, voters in the Illinois 8th seem to heavily favor the incumbent. Early polling by Five Thirty Eight shows a “99% chance” that Krishnamoorthi will win. Rasmussen’s most recent poll shows a “Strong Dem” leaning in the midterm. As of June 30, Krishnamoorthi had raised more than $4 million compared to Diganvker’s $29,000.

But the challenger isn’t intimidated.

“People can give him $10 million and that’s not going to scare me,” he said, adding that despite recent polling, his campaign is “1,000 percent sure” that he will win in November. (VOa)