Oct. 16, 2007
By Anita Martin
After the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, a group of concerned Athens citizens and Ohio University faculty held a memorial service at Galbreath Chapel. There, they began discussing how to better share Indian culture with the local community.
"That's how the Friends of India Endowment was born," says the organization's president, Dr. Ram Gawande, a local physician. "We started raising money to promote a better understanding between India and America."
For Ohio University students, the FOIE provides grants for independent summer research projects, internships, teaching appointments and language study in India. In addition to their application essays and interviews, applicants are required to select from coursework, including Hindi language classes, as well as a religion class on Hinduism and an anthropology class on culture of South Asia.
This year, six Ohio University students and recent alumni won summer project grants through the FOIE, including Jordan Pleasant, an Honors Tutorial College philosophy senior who spent the summer translating Bengali poetry into English; Rhu Kahn, a telecommunications doctoral candidate who did ethnographic research for her dissertation about media and Muslim identity construction; and Zach Pickens, a political science master's candidate who researched Indo-U.S. relations in the 1970s and today.
In addition, Denny Culbert, Beth Skabar (bachelor's degrees) and Loren Holmes (master's degree), all recent photojournalism graduates, are teaching English at the Gawande College for Rural Poor, documenting village life through photojournalism projects and learning the Hindi language.
"The Friends of India Endowment is very committed to promoting research and teaching on issues relating to South Asia at Ohio University," says Haley Duschinski, an FOIE member and assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio University. "We support the Hindi language program and are trying to build enrollment and institutionalize it in the curriculum."
The group also sponsors an annual Indo-American Friendship Day celebration, held on campus each May; the "Know India" Contest, which promotes understanding of India among schoolchildren; and annual campus lectures related to Indian culture. The Friends of India Endowment frequently partners with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Rotary Club, and raises funds for international causes such as digging water wells in rural India and eradicating polio.
To visit learn more about the Ohio University students' projects in India and to view their photos, visit their blogs:
To make a contribution to the endowment or to learn more about FOIE grants, activities and membership, contact Rajindar Koshal at 740-593-2038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated Dec. 10, 2007, to correct Loren Holmes' name and class rank.