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Solanki Foundation Lecture Scheduled For March 1

Published: March 1, 2012

The 10th Annual Uka and Nalini Solanki Foundation Lecture returns to The Pointe at CSULB on Thursday, March 1, at 7 p.m. to hear guest speaker William Dalrymple, followed by a book signing. Dalrymple will speak on “The Return of a King: Shah Shuja, the Great Game and the First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-42.”

Series organizer Tim Keirn, a member of the History department since 1991, applauded the selection of Dalrymple for this year’s 10th Solanki lecturer.

“He is a world-renowned travel writer as well as a historian and founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival, the largest outside of Western Europe,” he said. “This is good for CSULB because everybody else wanted him and we got him. There are private and state campuses in both Northern and Southern California who wanted him but he agreed to come here. His journalism through such prize-winning radio and TV documentaries—among them ‘The Long Search’ and ‘Indian Journeys’—give him a high profile. His current address will connect the 21st century Afghan struggles with the 19th century’s first Afghan war.”

William Dalrymple
William Dalrymple

Dalrymple is one of the founders and co-directors of the annual Jaipur Literary Festival and the author of seven books about India and the Islamic world, all of which have won major literary awards, including City of Djinns (Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Prize), White Mughals (Wolfson Prize for History and SAC Scottish Book of the Year Prize), The Last Mughal (Duff Cooper Prize and Crossword Vodafone Award for Non-Fiction) and Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (Asia House Literary Award). He is currently working on a history of the first Anglo-Afghan war and a major show of Mughal art for the Asia Society in New York City that opened in February.

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 Solanki lectures have had quality speakers from day one,” said Arnold Kaminsky, senior coordinator of CSULB’s Yadunandan Center for India Studies. “From the very first speaker, Bhagwati Professor of Economics at Columbia Arvind Panagariya, who spoke in 2003 on comparative development issues between China and India, we’ve had the best. The fourth Solanki lecture in 2006 featured Sam Pitroda, chair of India’s National Knowledge Commission. We’ve had a range of outstanding people. Every single one of the Solanki lecturers has been formidable, from distinguished scholars to successful journalists.” He is also a regular correspondent and contributor to newspapers around the world, including The Guardian, The Hindu and the New York Times.

Yadunandan Center

Kaminsky believes the Solanki Lectures reflect the mission of the Yadunandan Center which is dedicated to the impartial study of India’s cultures, peoples and history. “The center takes a leadership role in establishing and hosting a Southern California network for the development of India awareness among universities and colleges,” he said. ”Students, faculty and the broader Indian community are the center’s prime audience and it is a diverse audience. The lectures have become one of the center’s main events every year. It brings together those three audiences in a dynamic fashion.”

Controversy is no stranger to the Solanki lectures, Keirn pointed out. “The last two speakers in the series brought along plenty of topics for discussion,” he said. “In 2011, Ramachandra Guha, the ninth lecturer, spoke on `The Rise and fall of the Indian Liberal Tradition,’ while 2010’s Mira Kamdar spoke on the topic `Planet India: America’s Stake in India’s Future.’ They have done a good job of connecting India’s past and present. The overall arguments not only help us understand India’s past but its future.”

“I encourage the university and the local community to attend the Solanki lectures,” said Kaminsky. “At the very least, we give dinner to the people who come and we have fed upwards of 250 visitors. There’s nothing typical about the speakers the series has featured. I’d be hard-pressed to say that any other series qualitatively can compete with the Solanki Series. No other series has had the consistency of top speakers that this series has. The faculty, the students and the community all have been well served.”

More information is available by contacting Keirn by e-mail or call 562/985-4428. To RSVP, call 562/985-7010 or e-mail

–Richard Manly