SAN FRANCISCO – (June 8, 2011) Just two years after the 2008 Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire renewed our fascination with India, The Commonwealth Club is presenting a closer look at this ancient culture in their August series of special lectures this year. “India Now" will feature topics ranging from Bollywood to yoga, ancient tradition to remarkable innovation. Home to 1.2 billion people and a burgeoning economy, India is rapidly emerging as one of the world superpowers of the twenty-first century. Despite its global significance, the world’s second-most populous country remains largely a mystery to many Americans. With its vast array of religions, languages, ethnic groups and traditions, India defies easy classification, yet our rapidly changing world demands a deeper understanding of this rich culture.

The Club will welcome a number of prominent India experts from various fields, including academia, business, government and the arts. With a host of speakers, panels, films, and exhibits, the series will shed light on India’s complexities and explore its rich diversity.

“Very few Westerners have a true understanding of this enigmatic country – a nation fraught with contrasts and contradictions. On one hand India is overcrowded and poverty-stricken, a place where both cows and traffic fill city streets. But India also boasts a thriving economy and extraordinarily wealthy and educated upper class. We hope to explore some of these ostensibly conflicting realities,” said Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Club.

The series organizer, Dr. Carol Fleming, observed, “India is a land of paradoxes: it contains a populace vastly divided along socio-economic and religious lines. We hope to understand the many challenges India will encounter as it continues to grow in both population and wealth. We will examine the country through various lenses, including economics, religion and popular culture.” 

Programs scheduled are:
(All programs take place at 595 Market St., San Francisco, unless otherwise noted)

August 1, Monday, 6 p.m.: “Wake Up Laughing, Wise Up Loving” 
Speaker: Swami Beyondananda, Cosmic Comic
Join Swami Beyondananda for a heart opening presentation and find out why noted author Marianne Williamson has called Swami “the Mark Twain of our generation.” The Swami will also be taking live questions from the audience, so if you have an answerable question, the Swami will have a questionable answer for you.

August 3, Wednesday, 6 p.m.: “Investing in India Today” 
Speaker: Sunil Asnani, Portfolio Manager, Matthews International Capital Management
Jennifer Schatz,Senior Vice President, Marketing, Matthews International Capital management – Moderator
India’s ability to not only achieve respectable economic growth in a turbulent economic environment but to do so without major government stimulus demonstrates its inherent resilience, says Asnani. However, blindly investments in India could lead to disappointment. Come learn about growth opportunities as well as challenges for this country of 1.2 billion people.

August 8, Monday, 6 p.m.: “The Philosophy of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita” 
Monday Night Philosophy dives deep into dharma, as detailed in the divine conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. Hear them discuss the byways of yogic philosophy, and delight in Krishna’s failure to convince the warrior Arjuna to do battle with his relatives until Krishna realizes he must forego reasoning and rely on the usual divine persuasiveness of overwhelming power.

August 9, Tuesday, 6 p.m.: “Bio-Diversity and Agriculture in the Western Ghats” 
Speaker: Jay Ranganathan, Ph.D., National Center for Ecological Analysis, Santa Barbara, CA
Ranganathan will present a new way of jointly planning for rural uplift and environmental conservation through a case study of farmers in India’s Western Ghats mountain range. One of the world’s hotspots for unique species, the region’s traditional agricultural practices have sheltered species and forests that would otherwise likely have vanished centuries ago. Further, these farmers have achieved astonishing economic success using their environmentally friendly methods, providing an example that could be applied to agricultural practices worldwide.

August 10, Wednesday, 6 p.m.: “Muslims of India: Their Politics, Identity and Economy” 
Speaker: Rafiq Dossani, Ph.D., Author; Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University
India’s 160 million Muslims differ geographically by language, socio-economic status and culture. The Muslim-Indian community shares a common trajectory of challenges in their political power and socio-economic status. Their identity, in the eyes of the average Indian, is evermore monolithic and faith-based. To some politicians, Muslim Indians are now considered a security risk. Dossani will discuss the causes of their challenges and possible future.

August 11, Thursday, 6 p.m.: “India’s Economic Growth: What Can We Expect?” 
Speaker: Nirvikar Singh, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, UC Santa Cruz; Author; Member of an Advisory Group to the Finance Minister of India on G-20 matters
India’s economy is projected to grow in 2011 at a rate faster than almost every other country in the world. Is this growth sustainable? What will drive, and limit, its growth? How will it sustain innovation and entrepreneurship? What will be the role of the government? A prominent economist and expert on India will share views on the Indian economy and its future.

August 11, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.: “Sramana Mitra: 1M/1M”
Speaker: Sramana Mitra, Founder, 1M/1M; Author, Vision India 2020 
Mitra looks at the current challenges facing India and the untapped opportunities in energy, infrastructure, health care, film and education. She believes start-up companies in India could develop into billion-dollar enterprises in the next 10 years. She will also speak about her global initiative, One Million by One Million, which aims to help a million entrepreneurs reach a million dollars in annual revenue by 2020.
Location: SV Bank, 3005 Tasman Dr., Santa Clara 

August 15, Monday, 6 p.m.: "Sleeping Vishnu, Prowling Camera: Hindu Mythology in the Media Age"
Speaker: Vamsee K. Juluri, Ph.D., Professor, University of San Francisco For nearly 100 years, movies and other mass media in India have retold the stories of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Through spectacular feature films, TV series, cartoons, comic books and novels, generations of Indians have found their favorite legends brought to life in different forms. But is the meaning of mythology the same today as it was in the days of Mahatma Gandhi? What has changed, and what has stayed the same? What does the present media climate augur for the future of Hinduism and India?

August 17, Wednesday, "Spice of Live: Growing up Queer in India"
Speakers: Devesh Khatu, Minal Hajratwala, Rakesh Modi, Dipti Ghosh
Growing up gay and lesbian in India imbues a broad world view consistent with the multi-culturalism of secular India and the pluralistic religions of the subcontinent. At the same time, Asian family pressures drive conformity amid strong expectations of an individual born to be part of a collective. Our speakers have each forged powerful identities as accomplished LGBT activists, authors and builders of a new class of LGBT world citizens equally at home in India and the United States.

August 18, Thursday, 6 p.m.: “Pipe Dreams - Water for Thirsty Cities in India: Challenges of Supplying Water for Cities in India”
Speaker: Veena Srinivasan, Ph.D., Pacific Institute, Oakland, CA
As India’s urban population and income grow in unprecedented numbers, supplying water reliably to the community has become a growing concern. Faced with limited reservoir storage, aging infrastructure, and rapidly growing demand, no Indian city today has a 24/7 water supply. But because much of the infrastructure is still being built, there is an opportunity to follow a different development path. Srinivasan will discuss possible strategies for a sustainable water supply system.

August 22, Monday, 6 p.m.: “Sacred Heritage: A Merging of Islamic and Hindu Traditions” 
Speaker: Salma Arastu, Artist; Author
Renowned Indian-born Muslim artist Arastu speaks to the contemporary relationship between religion and art. In conjunction with her art exhibit at the SF Club Office beginning July 15, she will share the inspiration for her imagery, a blending of spirituality, Islamic values and beauty in modern culture.

August 23, Tuesday, 6 p.m.: "Spices of India Cooking and Henna Party"
Speaker: Ranjan Dey, Proprietor, New Delhi Restaurant; Founder, New World Spices
Join us for a special event with acclaimed chef and proprietor of San Francisco’s New Delhi Restaurant. The evening will include a cooking demonstration using Chef Dey’s “speed scratch” style with a masalas spice-blend, sampling of traditional Indian flavors, and henna hand painting. Enjoy a dinner buffet following the presentation consisting of the mouthwatering, showcased dishes.

August 23, Tuesday, 6 p.m.: "India Shining: From the Ground Up"
Speaker: Rajasvini Bhansali, MPA, Executive Director, International Development Exchange
The rhetoric of India Shining, a 2004 public relations campaign, engineered by the then-ruling Hindu fundamentalist party, referred to the economic growth following India's IT boom and a few years of plentiful rain. As India's image as a developed nation grew in the eyes of the global north, it disguised the growing economic, social and cultural disparities in a country where over 400 million people continue to live in extreme poverty. A vibrant civil society and many grassroots movements in India work to deepen democracy and build the power of ordinary people. Bhansali will discuss what has been learned from the ground up from these movements working across sectors, cultures, issues and regions. She will focus on the success of women-led, community-driven initiatives working for long lasting social transformation and discuss the current lgbt movement. 

August 24, Wednesday, 6 p.m.: “Bollywood Now” 
Speaker: Bulbul Tiwari, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University
In this special program, Stanford Fellow Tiwari introduces us to historical and contemporary Indian Hindi film. She will provide insight into the significant conventions, economics and genres, including screening of excerpts from old and new musical film performances.

August 25, Thursday, 6 p.m.: “India and Her Fragments: Migrations from Old to New Worlds” 
Speaker: Minal Hajratwata, Author, Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents
The story of India’s 30-million-and-growing worldwide diaspora is reshaping trade, identity and culture all around the globe. Hajratwala will speak on what she says Americans need to know today about the rapidly changing country to which nearly 2 million Americans trace their roots. Hajratwala will draw from the seven years of research that led to her nonfiction book, Leaving India, winner of a 2010 Club Award (Silver) and other literary awards.

August 29, Monday, 6 p.m.: “Medical Technology Innovation for India” 
Speakers: Rajiv Doshi, M.D., Executive Director (U.S.), Stanford-India Biodesign; Consulting Assistant Professor of Medicine, Stanford University
Anurag Mairal, Ph.D., Director, Global Biodesign Exchange Programs, Stanford University
The emerging health-care needs of the rapidly expanding Indian population require the development of novel, cost-effective medical technologies that are relevant for the needs of the Indian people. Stanford University’s program in biodesign has been working closely with the government of India to promote medical technology innovation. Doshi and Mairal will share their experiences and discuss the opportunities and challenges for the future.

August 31, Wednesday, 6 p.m.: "INDOvation: India's Rise As an Innovation Superpower" 
Speaker: Navi Radjou, Executive Director of the Center for India & Global Business at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge
India’s pervasive scarcity combined with its mind-boggling diversity and growing connectivity are turning the country into a large-scale, living laboratory where grassroots entrepreneurs and corporations are coming up with frugal inventions – or “indovations” – that are both affordable and sustainable. Radjou will explain how these “indovations” have relevance not only within the Indian context, but also in other global markets.

Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s premier public affairs forum, with about 16,000 members. Based in San Francisco and San Jose, the Club hosts over 400 speeches, debates, and discussions each year on issues of regional, national and international significance. Since 2007, it has hosted ClimateOne, a leadership dialogue on climate change issues. At least half a million people hear The Commonwealth Club’s weekly radio broadcasts on more than 200 stations across the country. The Club also broadcasts on XM Satellite Radio and podcasts its programs as well. The Club’s programs are now televised on Comcast Premium Digital Cable, FORATV and ABC7, and The Club hosts live interactive broadcasts of its programs on its own Internet channel. For the past century, The Club has fostered free speech and civic dialogue on wide-ranging topics, addressing key issues in society, culture, politics, and the economy. For more information, visit our website.