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Friends update October 2009

OCHS Thinking Inside the Box Shivdasani Conference
OCHS Thinking Inside the Box Shivdasani Conference

Dear Friends,

We have the mists and mellow fruitfulness of autumn, the beautiful canopies of changing colour, and the crisp crunch of leaves underfoot, but the temperature is worthy of remark. An Indian summer they call it, a term that should attract the ears of Hindu studies scholars, but instead it refers to a North American Indian phenomena, although having said that our doctoral student Gopal Gupta, is from Boise, Idaho, so he's a North American Indian, but of course not a native North American Indian in that other sense of the term ... basically it’s warm in Oxford.*
We will launch our Bhumi Project this week, an outreach project of the Centre aimed a developing environmental awareness and encouraging good practice among Hindu communities. I usually reserve next month’s news until next month’s update, but this is too good to withhold. The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies was asked to help get the Hindu community together on this issue by the Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
What has become the Bhumi Project has been developing since April this year. The long term Hindu plans for education, networking, and action will be announced, along with those of other major religious traditions, by young volunteers from three of the country’s largest Hindu temples. The event is being hosted in Windsor, by HRH Prince Philip, and Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. More on this next month.
Our very own Jessica, Dr Frazier to her students, acted as consultant on a very successful three-part BBC documentary on Gandhi, for which she and the OCHS gained credit. Not content with that Jessica then ended up in front of the camera to present a BBC programme on Ayurveda, a kind of reality-TV-meets-ancient-medical-tradition programme, very expertly presented and a portent of a budding star. Paling insignificantly against her scholarlywood performance I presented six Prayers for the Day, on BBC Radio Four. We are being asked to broadcast, write columns, and lecture more and more to a broad audience and thus plan to run a training seminar so that we can develop our pool of available contributors.
Our two-day Shivdasani philosophy conference, ‘Thinking Inside the Box’, was very successful, gathering eminent scholars from around the world to present, discuss, and debate. Participants had a jolly dinner on the Saturday evening and all were very happy to support the call for publication of the papers. The very stuff of an academic centre, good research, sharing and testing of ideas, and publication for wider dissemination. This is the second of our major conferences and our warm thanks to Mr Azad Shivdasani for his kind sponsorship – a crucial ingredient in the mix that makes the academic pastry rise. Without such enlightened and generous support we would end up with pasty academics, poor thinking, and its consequent social problems. You can read more and download lectures from the conference at.
Our Leicester Friends group continues to attract the public to thoughtful talks, raising awareness of the Centre and its aspirations. We are indebted to them for their dedication and sincere and successful efforts to build a community of Friends in Leicester. Engaging in a second bout of mentioning next month's news, our Birmingham Friends group will be launched on 7 November. Nitin and Meena Sodha will host the event and to get more details please contact Meena at
There is more, so much more – our very likeable Visiting Shivdasani Fellow, Prof. Makarand Paranjape, from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi; the important development of our first Endowment Campaign Committee; volunteers from Deloitte and Ernst and Young developing a business plan for the OCHS; new students to serve; more experience at training for the corporate sector; and ever successful Wednesday lunches for scholars and students to learn, share, laugh, and eat.
But more of this next time.
So, as the tumbling red leaves of autumn trees turn to brown, our Gopal Gupta prepares for the English winter to come – grey – and I wish you all a dry, warm, and colourful November.
Warm regards, 
* I wrote this on Saturday and, of course, Sunday was a storm of wind, rain, cold and blowing leaves. English weather – as trustworthy as a slug in a cabbage patch.