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Solanki Lecture Series Returns for Seventh Time to CSULB

Published: April 15, 2009

The Uka and Nalini Solanki Lecture Series returns for the seventh time to CSULB on Thursday, April 16, in the Karl Anatol Center with renowned travel writer Pico Iyer speaking on “Our Global Century and Its New Possibilities.”

Admission is free with a reception beginning at 6 p.m. followed by the lecture and a book signing from 7-9 p.m.

“We are encouraging RSVPs only because the venue in the Karl Anatol Center can host a maximum of 150 people,” said Bipasha Baruah, interim director of the Yadunandan Center for India Studies which sponsors the series. “We would also like to have a general sense of attendance ahead of time because of the reception before the event.” Those interested are encouraged to RSVP College of Liberal Arts Development Events Coordinator Valerie Christian by calling 562/985-8785 or -mailing her at by Friday, April 10.

“I am extremely pleased with the lecture,” said Baruah. “By writing against narrow nationalistic ideologies of identity, Iyer’s work allows us to find common experiences and identity as a global community. His latest book, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, illuminates the transforming ideas and daily challenges of a contemporary icon of peace and non-violence not just of the Tibetan people but the world at large.”

The Solanki Lecture is an endowed lecture series established by Uka and Nalini Solanki, with the express intention of inviting a distinguished individual to discuss South Asia related topics. The series is part of the generous endowment provided by the Uka and Nalini Solanki Foundation, which funded the Yadunandan Center for India Studies in 2005. The center is named after Nalini Solanki’s great-great grandfather, who was an advocate of education in northern India. The Yadunandan Center for India Studies at CSULB is dedicated to the impartial study of India’s cultures, peoples and history.

Pico Iyer is one of the most revered travel writers in the world, explained Baruah, who joined the Geography Department in 2006. “He is the author of nine books, including, Video Nights in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, Cuba and the Night, and The Global Soul,” she said. He writes up to a 100 articles a year for magazines and newspapers around the world. He has also written a film script for Miramax.” He initiated the Hart House Lecture series at the University of Toronto and been a Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.

In 1995, Iyer was named by the Utne Reader as one of 100 visionaries worldwide who “could change your life.” He will also sign copies of his new book, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, which is based on his conversations with the Dalai Lama over the last 33 years.

The inaugural Solanki Lecture in 2003 featured economist Arvind Panagariya, Bhagwati Professor of Economics at Columbia on “Why India Lags Behind China and What To Do About It.” Other speakers have included HIV/AIDS researcher Suniti Solomon in 2004, CEO of WIPRO Technologies Richard Garrick in 2005, chairman of India’s National Knowledge Commission Sam Pitroda in 2006, journalist and playwright Suketu Mehta in 2007 and writer and director of Hindi films and television Saeed Akhter Mirza in 2008 who spoke about his new book, Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother.

“Iyer is one of the brightest stars in the constellation of South Asians writing in English,” Baruah continued. “His writings on globalism mesh extremely well with the diverse cosmopolitan ethos of contemporary India and South Asia.”

Baruah believes the Solanki Foundation Lectures help the Yadunandan Center develop awareness of India at the university level.

“By inviting the best and brightest people working on issues relevant to South Asia, the Solanki Lecture presents universities and colleges with the opportunity to engage with contemporary South Asia in a meaningful way,” she said. “Students from several classes at CSULB, including my Human Geography class, will attend the lecture.”

Audience feedback for the series has been positive. “Selecting speakers who can address a cross-over (academic and non-academic) audience has worked well for us,” she said. “We have received very positive responses to our previous speakers, for example, writer Suketu Mehta in 2007 and filmmaker Saeed Akhter Mirza in 2008.”

Baruah encourages both the university and the Long Beach community to attend the event.

“The Seventh Solanki Lecture featuring Pico Iyer presents an opportunity to engage with one of the best travel writers the world has ever produced,” she said. “After the lecture, he has agreed to sign copies of his new book based on his conversations with the Dalai Lama over the last 33 years. Given how globally engaged our faculty, staff and students are, I am sure they will want to attend this lecture.”