Indian students at UMKC hosted “International Students Day – Celebrating India” on Friday, April 17 in iX theatre in Miller Nichols Library. This event included native food, a documentary and three lectures about these students’ native country.
The first lecture, “Unity and Diversity in India,” was by Frahnaaz Soukatali, a law alumni of UMKC. Soukatali emphasized many types of diversity, including the 780 languages spoken in India, down from a previous number of 1,652. India is predominately Hindu, but is a secular state like the U.S. and other Western democracies. The population consists of 2.3 percent Christians and 0.77 percent Buddhists.
Susan Sanders, a Hospital Hill librarian, introduced the next speaker, Lakshmi Venkitachalam, a professor in epidemiology. This professor talked about India and its overall health system and life expectancy. She mentioned that it is important to honor the scientific method and formulate a hypothesis. She showed part of a BBC documentary mentioning life expectancy and how it has changed in the world since the end of Napoleonic times. India
had a low life expectancy until a few decades ago. Venkitachalam made a stirring point that India was officially polio-free in 2014. That is a startling fact, considering that India is the second most populous country in the world, just behind the People’s Republic of China.
The third lecture was from Dr. Deb Chatterjee, a professor in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. His focus was the ancient art of Indian mathematics, a topic about which there is limited information. There was a mathematical emphasis in India since the Vedas, a primarily religious document, in 5,000 B.C. Another early religious document, the Bhagavad Gita, had a mathematical aspect, Chatterjee explained. Ritual altars and buildings had to be planned out in a mathematical fashion, so an emphasis on math could be seen in early India in that way. Chatterjee said there was an influence from Chinese mathematics in India, also.