Teaching and researching religions, languages, literatures, films, and ecology of India: http://philosophy.unt.edu/people/faculty/pankaj-jain

Dr. Pankaj Jain

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Dr. Pankaj Jain is the author of Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability (May 2011), which won the 2012 DANAM Book Award and the 2011 Uberoi Foundation Book Award. His 2nd book is Science and Socio-Religious Revolution in India: Moving the Mountains (Routledge 2017).

He is co-founder of American Academy of Indic Studies (www.AAIndicStudies.org) and is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Springer).

He is Associate Professor in the department of Philosophy & Religion. He has published articles in journals such as Religious Studies Review, Worldviews, Religion Compass, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Union Seminary Quarterly Review, and the Journal of Visual Anthropology. He also contributes to the Huffington Post, Washington Post’s forum On Faith, and Patheos.
His research has been supported by the Fulbright fellowship and by the Wenner Gren grant. His teaching interests include Religion and Ecology, Indian films, and Religions and Cultures of South Asia and South Asian Diaspora in North America. Before joining UNT, he taught at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean, and New Jersey City University. Interested in connecting ancient practices with contemporary issues, he is exploring the connections between religious traditions and sustainability in Hindu and Jain communities in India and the Indian diaspora. He serves as a research affiliate with Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, as scholar-in-residence with GreenFaith, as a board member of the Society for Hindu Christian Studies, and as a board member of the Executive Advisory Council of Hindu American Seva Charities, an NGO working with the White House Office for the faith-based initiatives. He has presented his research at Columbia University, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, University of South Florida, Florida International University, University of Toledo, Texas Christian University, High Point University, Lancaster University (UK), Andhra University (India), Univ of Rajasthan (India), and several conferences, high schools, radio and TV stations, temples, churches, Yoga centers, and other community centers.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and an M.A. from Columbia University (both in Religious Studies). In his “previous life” he had also earned a B.S. in Computer Science from India and had worked as a software engineer in India and in New Jersey. Dr. Jain is an active member of several academic and community organizations, is fluent in several Indian languages, and has published poems in Hindi. He was born in Rajasthan and had also lived in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Karnatak (in India) and in New Jersey, Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas (in the USA). Some of his papers and articles are at:http://unt.academia.edu/PankajJain/Papers and videos are at http://www.youtube.com/pj2017. The Facebook page for his book is at:https://www.facebook.com/DharmaAndEcology

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In India, after 2.5 years

This time I felt a real change in even a small town like Banswara which now enjoys wireless broadband internet with international quality but unfortunately Mumbai has not changed even a bit in last 20 years or so that I have been observing, same pollution, traffic, negligible security even after the attack at the CST station.

Delhi, I have heard, has very aggresively improved its environmental situation with stringent pollution control, though I have not visited Delhi recently but Mumbai still lacks the political will. It is still very chaotic politically with Shiv Sena and other equally divisive organizations. Even congress has shown little interest to deal with the infrastructure or pollution or secutiry so far....may be that is why Sheela Dixit in Delhi keeps winning by working hard to improve Delhi.

Maybe the future is in towns like Banswara. I wish India sees its future in towns and villages like Banswara, the vision Gandhiji had once. After my Bachelor's degree, when I was working in Jodhpur and Udaipur, they seemed like a distant places compared to Mumbai. Now with internet and mobile phone revolution, every "sleepy village" of India has the same access to information as the big cities and that is a huge step forward...

The Gandhian vision could not be actualized while most of the villages were poor. So maybe it can happen now. Only if the people themselves were given more power to take their destiny in their own hands like the Panchayati Raj system that Gandhi had suggested...may be the information revolution will help further...

I went to a high school here in Banswara and about 2000 kids came to interact with me in their auditorium for two hours. I was astonished to see the intellectual energy of boys and girls. They had really challenging questions about India, USA, NRIs, their career, the dominance of English, importance of studying history, etc...
This is one of the biggest change at the grass root of India: a new energy unleashed because of the information revolution. The kids challenged me with the questions about Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri! Hopefully this young empowered generation will prevent idiots from assuming too much political control - although in the US that never happened. The promise of democracy at least allows the people to kick the idiots out every 5 years.

Fortunately, the liberalized economy keeps the govenment and politicians out which was not possible 20 yrs back, unfortunately the pollution contol and the action against terrorism still needs government intervention hence no hope in the near future for India's security and pollution control: thanks to the politicians.

Also visited couple of ancient temples in Chittorgadh, amazing Shiva Lingam
with scars of the sword of Ghazani, according to the local legends...

The questions from the students of New Look High School:

1. Is brain drain good for India? Shouldn't all Indians return to India and help India?
2. What is the need of studying history which is all about old forgotten people and places?
3. What is so glorious about Indian heritage which is full of child marriage, caste problems and sati (widow burning)?
4. Aren't NRIs like Sulman Rushdie and Arundharti Roy only after their personal gains? How are they helping India when they have even left their Indian citizenship.
5. How to deal with poverty and corruption of India?
6. What and how do you teach Indian films?
7. How to deal with huge population of India? Is there any hope?
8. How to think of Indian culture when we all want to focus on our career? Our parents also have limited info about both our future and about Indian culture.
9. Why dont you come back and teach all these cultural subjects right here in India?
10. Why should English be given importance in India?
11. Aren't foreign MNCs are all about profit? Why dont they invest in Indian villages?


RA said...

Interesting !!
Wonder what your answers were?

Anonymous said...

India’ future still lies in every big city of India simply because the Indian growth from last 5-10 yrs also came from big cities. So many of our generation (30’s-40’s) youth from smaller cities are NRIs or working in multinationals in bigger cities of India. This is the generation who has seen Internet from inception, Internet bubble of 90s gave us unique opportunity to see the world getting flatter. As a result many Indian IT models (BPO) started to make business sense. What you saw in Banswara - pro-active next generation is the byproduct of our success in big city.

I feel, in next few years we will see many more entrepreneurs from Indian bigger cities. They will make their name with their extra ordinary work/ achievement/ discovery! Why? With recent 5-7 yrs success, we have learnt to be fearless, competitive at national or even at international level! Recent comparative success in Olympics or Cricket is indicating the same belief. What we need now is a bigger product like Google or Microsoft where whole world follow and becomes synonymous with India. It may or may not be in IT (where we have already showed our mantle), it can be in any field!

Bharatiya said...

Thanks for your comments. I wish I could agree with the anonymous commentator. Unfortunately, the big cities such as Mumbai are fast turning into mega polluters and hence my hopes turned sour with them. I also felt more energy and enthusiasm in the youth of smaller towns and villages compared to Mumbaikars whose quality of life has changed less radically than those of smaller towns and villages and hence I see the future leaders from smaller towns...

Bharatiya said...

My answers to Banswara students:

1. Is brain drain good for India? Shouldn't all Indians return to India and help India?

Ans. Brain Drain has actually helped India with massive reinvestments of the brains for India's economy and Indian culture abroad.

2. What is the need of studying history which is all about old forgotten people and places?

Ans: History is the best teacher for the humankind because it provides us with good rolemodels to follow and cautions us against our own past mistakes as well.

3. What is so glorious about Indian heritage which is full of child marriage, caste problems and sati (widow burning)?
Ans: Indian culture is not just about sati, baal-vivaah, and jati-prathaa. Indian culture is also about the recognition of divinity in every being of the universe with its larger ecological importance, universal brotherhood based on global family, welcoming all religions to India since ancient times with its message for pluralism, amzing traditional scientific and technological advances based on "green" technologies...

4. Aren't NRIs like Sulman Rushdie and Arundharti Roy only after their personal gains? How are they helping India when they have even left their Indian citizenship.
Ans: Whether we like it or not, every Indian born person is treated like an Indian spokesperson outside India, and by his/her personal achievements, (s)he adds to the Indian brand-recognition.

5. How to deal with poverty and corruption of India?
Ans: Poverty and corruption are interlinked because both derive from wrong choice of politicians by Indians and wrong priorities by corrupt politicians. Only solution can come from youth of today who will emerge as better world leaders tomorrow.

6. What and how do you teach Indian films?
Ans: Films are the vehicle of popular culture and they reflect the contemporary social and political developments. By taking popular films seriously, we can study the current socio-polical dynamics with better insights.

7. How to deal with huge population of India? Is there any hope?
Ans: India is the youngest nation on the earth today based on the majority of its population of young people. On the contrary, most Western nations are growing older at a fast pace and majority of their populations will soon become a burden on their economies with less young productive hands. Hence, population in India is its asset not a burden, if this asset can be pruductively and creatively channelized for India's and worlds future.

8. How to think of Indian culture when we all want to focus on our career? Our parents also have limited info about both our future and about Indian culture.
Ans: By choosing such careers in which Indian culture is not forgotten or ignored. If Gandhian ideas are adopted in every walk of the life, it is possible to lead a successful career and helping India/World simultaneously.

9. Why dont you come back and teach all these cultural subjects right here in India?
Ans: Ironically, none or very few of the Indian universities have subjects that I can teach in the US universities so I must continue to teach India in the USA.

10. Why should English be given importance in India?
Ans: English is another asset that Indians possess better than the Chinese, Japanese, or Russians. The three-language system of Indian state run schools has worked in the favor of Indian students, professionals, and Indian economy. Only problem is the extra glory attached to the English language. With the rapid spread of Hindi films in the world and mobile phones and computers available in Indian languages in India, more Indian languages will soon be at par with English.

11. Aren't foreign MNCs are all about profit? Why dont they invest in Indian villages?
Ans: This is where sustainable (with green technologies)and inclusive (devloping all sectors of India) growth is imperative for India otherwise India will end up making same mistakes that were made in 1960s in the Western countries.

Bharatiya said...

Imagine a world without trees,
Oh! I wonder there would be no breeze.
And the fauna kingdom would perish,
Even the man will not cherish.

Oh man! why don't you realize,
The utility of these precious guys.
Who make the Earth a splendid beauty,
And make each ones life fruity.

What does thier cutting give you?
Just a mere piece of land or a sou,
Nothing but environment matters in life,
Then why on it are you using knife?

Sometimes I cry out in pain!
For the way you cut trees in vain.
Have you ever anticipated its outcome?
It doesn't seem to me much winsome.

Bharatiya said...

The above poem about the environment was shared by a seventh grade student Garvit in Banswara.

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