Music From Mud: Exploring the Artistry of Clay Pottery

On 12 – 14 May 2023, the students of the ARTS228 Music from Mud Pottery Course showcased their impressive collection of clay musical instruments at the Atrium of Krea University’s campus. The event drew a diverse crowd of faculty, students, and research fellows, all eager to witness the intricacies of the instruments. From rattles, pellet bells and ocarinas to udu drums, marimbas and panpipes, the display featured a range of aerophones and idiophones, each with its unique sound and design.

Visitors were treated to a demonstration of how each instrument works, the basics of clay, and the art of pottery. The event was a testament to the talent and creativity of the students, who poured their hearts into the making of these beautiful instruments. Posters and pictures of the instruments were also on display, allowing visitors to take a closer look at the remarkable craftsmanship that went into their creations. Overall, it was a delightful celebration of music and art, leaving all attendees inspired and filled with admiration.

The students enrolled in this course have had the opportunity to engage with a new art medium. ‘It was nice to interact with clay and something so earthy and natural,’ says Mallika Sobhrajani, a student from the SIAS Cohort of 2024, and adds that her favourite piece is the amplifier. ‘You do not need to know anything about music, to use it – you can just put your phone in it, and play music. I actually wanted speakers since a long time, and now I have one that I made myself,’ she adds, emphasising the joy of having created an object both aesthetically appealing and of practical use.

Even for those with prior experience in music and instrument-making, the course had a lot to offer in terms of novelty. Anu from the SIAS Cohort of 2024 is a guitar player, and music is an important part of his life. ‘I’ve made instruments before, but not using clay,’ he says. ‘One of the things I enjoyed most was working with the clay and getting the feel for the material. In the academic setting, I have not had much prior experience of working with my hands.’

Producing instruments out of clay requires not only technical skills and creativity, but also the right attitude and perseverance. Soumya Mati, another SIAS student from the 2023 Cohort, shares some of her experience: ‘The panpipe is my favourite instrument because it not only take a lot of skill to make, but it also took a lot of confidence and belief in my abilities. So when it was finally ready, I had this sense of achievement, accomplishment and happiness for having learned something new, unique, which I wouldn’t have got from any other course.’

As a skills course, Music from Mud has given the students an opportunity to experiment with new art forms, to benefit from the interwoven pedagogy which is at the heart of this course, and to maintain their mental wellbeing. Kaveri Bharath, Visiting Faculty at SIAS, and a Course Instructor for the ARTS228 Music from Mud course believes that a practical course such as this one helps students ground themselves. ‘Students at universities have a lot of intellectual matter going in, but they don’t have enough for their hand-eye coordination and for their tactile learning. So a practical course like this is definitely a must. Krea has the whole idea of interwoven learning, and interwoven learning does not get more interwoven than working with clay, because you need to know some geology, some geography, some history, you need to have chemistry and physics on your side, mathematics in calculating the tones and notes, to make the instruments. You have to have all of that, and then also be creative. These students have been fabulous – out of the 27 students who have taken the course, only one had previously worked with clay,’ she says.

These instruments were created in Krea University’s pottery studio. While a number of upgrades are in the pipeline, the establishment the pottery shed on campus is a significant milestone – it is the first arts space that has been commissioned at Krea, specifically for the Global Arts practicums. The project was made possible with the support from the Vice-Chancellor and the Deans, and through the joint efforts from Kaveri Bharath, Visiting Faculty at SIAS, the Campus Development and Campus Operations Teams.

‘A number of people were integrally involved in this project to get it finished on time for the third trimester, under very tight timelines,’ says Dr Sumitra Ranganathan, Divisional Chair, Literature & the Arts, SIAS. ‘Accommodations have been made to ensure that the space is inclusive and accessible, and to ensure the facility’s buildout over a period of time,’ she adds.

Mr Ramakrishnan Durairaj, Assistant General Manager, Operations Team at Krea University, says the pottery studio project is the outcome of joint efforts of many individuals and teams at Krea. ‘Operations Team worked with Campus Development Team, Professor Sumitra Ranganathan, Professor Srajana Kaikini and Professor Kaveri Bharath in finalising the location, the plan and other requirements needed for setting up the the pottery studio. In the later phase, after the construction of the studio was completed, the Operations Team helped in setting up the infrastructure required for the smooth operation of the pottery class,’ he explains.

The Campus Development Team – Mr K S Jaysankkar (Department Head), Mr N Senthil Kumar (Senior Manager), Mr V S Arunachalam, Mr N Siva, and Mr G Vaikundaraj – share a common sentiment of fulfilment and joy at the completion of the pottery studio at Krea. In a joint statement, they say, ‘The thought of bringing up a clay/pottery studio at Krea came with a deep committment of nurturing this age-old practice and helping the students feel closer to the environment. We, the Campus Development Team, immediately recognised a close connection with this art form, since it deals with soil, which is directly tied in with our profession. The pottery studio is a result of much thought, many rounds of discussions, always done collaboratively. This approach helped us overcome a number of challenges, including the tight deadlines. Kudos to our team, to the engineers, staff members, and all the construction labourers who worked tirelessly for many days and nights to finish the work on time. It gives us immense joy to see that this space now serves the student community, and enables them to learn and grow.’

This marks the humble start of a multitude of projects that shall be envisioned and nurtured within the welcoming walls of this pottery studio. Anticipate a delightful array of tales brimming with creativity, artistry and joy.

Finding freedom with financial literacy

<strong>Finding freedom with financial literacy<br><br></strong>

In conversation with Chaarmikha Nagalla on her experiments with all things finance, contributions to the world of content creation, and projects in the pipeline

There’s a spark in Chaarmikha Nagalla’s eyes and her face lights up everytime she talks about finance. “There’s a certain joy that comes with sharing your lessons on finances with others. It’s nice to see them implement your suggestions in their lives and benefit from it,” beams Chaarmikha from the Cohort of 2023 at the School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences, Krea University.
A student of Economics with concentrations in Computer Science and Business Studies, Chaarmikha’s interest in business and finance intensified during the pandemic-induced lockdown. “I religiously followed a handful of Finfluencers on Instagram and picked up many trade secrets from them. It widened my horizons and shaped my perspective on managing personal finance. I remember investing my first pay cheque of Rs 1,500 from a competition in a mutual fund. Now it has compounded at a good rate and I’ve made a profit,” recollects Chaarmikha, who has been breaking down the ABCs of finance, simplifying jargon and educating her followers on social media.

Of connections and collaborations
Budgeting, claiming insurance, investing… Chaarmikha sheds light on an array of topics to help followers make informed decisions. “Financial literacy is key to everyday decision-making. I’m a firm believer of thinking about money in terms of time and time in terms of money. Discussing money must not be frowned upon and information must be accessible to everyone. The wealth of information can be overwhelming but gaining financial fluency allows you to evaluate news, understand trends and business announcements,” reiterates Chaarmikha, who is also the Program Director of Project EIFL (Educate India Financially), where the team collectively envisions a financially literate world by striving to be every youngster’s go-to financial awareness program to intellectually equip themselves.

Alongside finance, her passion for empowerment and entrepreneurship brought her responsibilities and opportunities to create an impact among a larger crowd. Chaarmikha is the President of the Hyderabad Coalition of the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign that works towards bringing a change in the perception of gender dynamics globally. “The more you learn, the more you diversify. Liberal arts does that to you. Also, for me, the drive to work for women’s empowerment comes from personal sentiments given the taboo and stereotypes that I witness as a woman in everyday life. We need to normalise conversations around it,” smiles this two-time TedXSpeaker.

Chaarmikha also previously co-founded The Indian Conclave, a start-up registered under the Government of Telangana; where her team closely worked with educational institutions on leadership cultivation, entrepreneurial interest and public speaking for the youth to be equipped in this unpredictable world. “We identified and taught the key skills that are not taught at schools but are crucial for students to thrive in this competitive environment. We’ve impacted 15,000 students so far,” says a proud Chaarmikha.

Besides this, Chaarmikha’s impressive line of work includes volunteering experiences as part of campaigns and at various organisations. One that Chaarmikha cherishes the most is when she got selected among the 200 creators for the LinkedIn Creator Accelerator Program. “It was life-changing. I was the youngest from the lot and working alongside intellectual minds from all walks of life boosted my confidence. I got to explore and experiment with the world of content creation. There comes a responsibility with every word you put out there on digital platforms for readers to consume. The internet is a powerful resource and I intend to make the best use of it,” admits Chaarmikha who has her plate full with content creation, data analysis, social media marketing, business development and freelance graphic designing.

Campus diaries
Despite wearing many hats, Chaarmikha has always taken the positions held at Krea University seriously and goes the extra mile to give her best to the legacy. The elaborate list includes – Elected Representative of the Connect Club (MUN, Debate and Quizzing societies) for two consecutive years, Student Ambassador of Outreach, Elected Representative of the School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences at the University-Wide Committee on the work-study program, Founding Treasurer of the Economics Society and Executive Board member (Public Relations head) of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship club. “When you love your work, you don’t see it as a burden,” she chips in.
Chaarmikha actively engages in activities pertaining to innovation and entrepreneurship, mindfulness, nature & outdoors, Connect (MUN, quiz, debate) and sports. “The experience at Krea varies for different people. It’s a platform to grow if you use the opportunity wisely. Most of my content for social media is inspired by Public Policy classes. I learn from the conversations I have with peers and professors everyday. My exposure to disciplines like Design Thinking, Philosophy and Ethics have also transformed my understanding of the world as an individual,” adds Chaarmikha.

The road ahead
Going forward, Chaarmikha wishes to pursue a career in FinTech. “I either want to pursue a Master’s degree or land a job; as long as it lets me pursue my passion on the sidelines. I will start a digital marketing agency if neither of my plans work out. I would also love to contribute to content houses and their newsletters. Creative economy is another domain of interest. In a week’s time, a few of us are pitching an idea to investors on FinTech. A larger topic I’m also working on is inclusion of women in the financial ecosystem,” offers Chaarmikha, an overview of her plans in the pipeline.
True to what Chaarmikha’s LinkedIn profile reveals, she breathes content 24×7. What truly keeps her tank full is taking the time out for self-introspection. “Thinking for yourself and by yourself is crucial for personal growth. This is the mantra that keeps me going,” she sums up.

Quick three with Chaarmikha

What are the best books to start learning about finance?

  • The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
  • The Financial Independence Marathon by Vinod Bhat

A tip to keep in mind while consuming information from Finfluencers on social media?

Diversify your sources and be mindful of them so you don’t fall prey to misinformation. Don’t take things blindly, do your groundwork.

How to start saving money?

Investment is the best way forward. Do your research on the benefits of compounding and budgeting. I’d encourage cash transactions so that you are aware of how much you spend.

Experience top global universities- Spend a summer on a study abroad  programme

<strong>Experience top global universities- Spend a summer on a study abroad  programme</strong>

Discovering literature in the heart of London at King’s College, experiencing learning from the heart of a start-up hub at UC Berkeley, pursuing environmental law alongside industry experts at Nottingham Trent University, or immersing oneself in Data and Policy at a Centre of excellence at Harris School of Public Policy, this could be you, next summer.

Every summer, undergraduate students across India step into their break, choosing internships and study programmes to pack their summer with experiences and learning. A short study abroad programme provides them with a diverse culture and knowledge-based experience while also reducing the pressure when it comes to funds, a best-of-both-worlds scenario.

In an attempt to curate a roadmap for students eager to explore study abroad opportunities, we spoke to Sai Balaji Suresh, a third-year student at SIAS, Krea University who has spent many summers undertaking programmes with prestigious universities across the globe, including the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR), Stanford Summer Session, London School of Economics (LSE) and King’s College London and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania during high school.

Sai takes us through his journey and together, we decode the opportunities present for students who wish to study abroad for the summers. But we don’t just stop there, we also deep dive into Sai’s experiences across the years from high school up until university, in curating an eclectic profile for himself through experiences that are organic but also count.

Summers that were

“I joined Krea in 2020 in the middle of COVID and had consciously let go of many fully funded opportunities from top international universities. But as I made that decision I also made a pact with my parents that every summer I would head to a university abroad for a short summer programme and I did. Last year it was LSE, then HPAIR and now Stanford.

Sai with Nobel Laureate Alvin Roth, emeritus professor in the Department of Economics at Stanford

Each of these experiences have been exciting and exhilarating, providing me the opportunity to make learning decisions that fit my future path, be a part of dynamic groups and meet inspiring people from all across the world.”

At Stanford, Sai participated in an eight weeks summer session where he undertook classes on Food, Sustainability and Culture, People Analytics: Data and Algorithms as Managerial Tools and High-Performance Computing and AI. At LSE, Sai did a three weeks virtual programme on strategic management but couldn’t head to the campus because of the pandemic. As a delegate at HPAIR, he and other students and young professionals from around the world met, engaged and learnt from government leaders, business executives, social sector pioneers, celebrities, and leading academics.

Right from the beginning

With a dream to venture out of India right after high school, Sai always ensured that his academic scores were highly competitive. And the summer programme abroad stint has been a part of Sai’s life right from Class 10. At King’s College London, Sai participated in Mission Discovery, a space-related programme for high schoolers where he interacted with top astronauts like Michael Foale and learnt about biological experiments in space from International Space Station Educational Trust (ISSET) Chairman Chris Barber. Yet another summer, his team was in the Top 3 at the Business Plan competition in the Global Young Leaders Academy (GYLA) at the Wharton School.

A simulation of the future

“My experience at Stanford was like a simulation; it has instilled confidence in both my parents and me that I can do well if I plan to study abroad. At Krea, I was able to gain the needed academic prudence for that, and these summer programmes have helped me with confidence. Programmes like these help shape our personalities in dynamic ways. Stanford, for instance, has a rigorous pedagogy and it can be tough but Krea has similar assessment schedules and patterns and also provides us space to indulge in clubs and committees and events; all these, put together have helped me hone critical skills that will help me cope in any of the top universities abroad if I am to choose them for the future.”

Roadmap to pursuing a short study abroad programme

When asked for a few suggestions for students who may be interested to do the same, Sai shares key takeaways from his experience.

R for Research

There are many options available across the world for short study abroad programmes and research is a good way to start.

“I looked at quite a few universities but chose Stanford. I explored the University of Pennsylvania and looked at courses at UC Berkeley but they weren’t apt for my goal. LSE, I had already pursued last summer and the Harvard programmes were shorter, so Stanford fit the bill right for what I wanted this summer. “

Find your fit

● Finding your course fit is important. Hence choosing these programmes after having some clarity on your majors and minors could help

● Choose courses that offer something distinct in your favorite disciplines

● If you have a dream university you couldn’t get into for your graduation, experience one summer
● If you have the bandwidth and budget go to these universities, explore the academic rigor, network and discover the culture
● Some of the programmes just demand academic transcripts but some may ask for an SOP
● If not a study abroad programme, try internships. There are opportunities abroad that aid selected candidates with documentation and visa to travel and work with them
● Explore opportunities within your own university for such programmes. At Krea we have some stellar partnerships that allow us to go to universities like Nottingham Trent, Sciences Po, Harris School of Public Policy, Babson and more

Explore funding options

For funding support, approach the schools. Many of them, including Harvard and LSE, provide full to partial funding for the short study programmes to deserving candidates. “Some of my colleagues were funded partially by their alma maters and by patrons,” adds Sai.

Why Krea?

“I could probably have made it to any university with my academic record but Krea was the only university I applied to in India. I was very sure of heading abroad for my undergraduate studies but then the pandemic happened. We were to be the second graduating batch of Krea; the campus was good, professors really cared for us, and to top it all, it was a new and unique university in the space of Liberal Arts Education. In hindsight, it was the right decision.”

“When you go abroad you have to cope with multiple things beyond academics, such as living alone and sometimes when you come from a certain educational background or board and it may or may not work. Everything is so ambiguous in the beginning, and then comes homesickness and the pandemic was all about being connected virtually. It’s a great idea to study in a university close to your roots which match global standards and then do summer programmes and mould yourself for a life of study abroad, probably through a Master’s.”

Being at Krea and helping build its legacy is something close to Sai’s heart. The buddy system at Krea where a senior is assigned to an incoming student was one of the major reasons that drew Sai to Krea.

At Krea he has interned as a mentor and operations intern with Mentor Match, supporting edtech the startup in its initial stages and also worked as an author for Riskpro Management Consultancy. Sai has also had varied internship experiences over time including one at Padma Shri awardee and the famous Pad Man of India Arunachalam Muruganantham’s factory at Coimbatore during his high school. He also has spent considerable time working with an NGO providing accessible education modules to underserved community schools. Sai believes many of these experiences have made him realise the privilege he holds and how his future path should have an impact on enabling changes not just for himself but for others who may not have as many choices as him.

“In the future, I plan to do something which is more altruistic beyond the conventional, work towards social causes and the planet while creating impact in domains of behavioural sciences, sustainability, and public policy, says Sai as he signs off.

The Joy of Journaling

<strong>The Joy of Journaling</strong>

As yet another roller-coaster of a year ends, would it not be nice to pause and reflect on the ups and downs that chiseled you into better versions of yourself? Well, there cannot be a better and simpler way to document the takeaways than to jot them down in your diary and preserve a slice of it for posterity.

The fact that the millennials and Gen Z have labeled the old school ritual as journaling and celebrating its comeback in recent years stands as testimony to how it has stood the test of time and proven to be life-changing for many across generations.

Getting the basics right

What is journaling?

A journal is a written record of thoughts, feelings, memories, and observations on a specific theme that a person maintains every day or periodically. They can take the form of written words or artistic visuals in physical or digital means.

How does it help?

While the impact journaling has on someone is subjective, it offers a safe space for you to open up and pour your feelings without the fear of being judged. While the practice comes with a host of significance on mental health, here are a few that are just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Over the years, journaling has proven to be an effective tool to manage stress, anxiety, and overpowering emotions
  • It helps you to break down an experience, introspect and learn from mistakes
  • It helps students to retain and retrieve information. It also helps break down unfamiliar and complex concepts
  • It helps clean the clutter, stay organized, improves your memory
  • It helps you evaluate your everyday progress and move toward your goals
  • It can be cathartic and helps calm your nerves when there’s a battle between the brain and the heart
  • It helps you be mindful of your surroundings, count your blessings and be grateful for life
  • It helps you to identify triggers, overcome fears, and channel internal anger outwards

Need help getting started?

Here are simple strategies that can motivate you to stick with journaling:

  • Commit to writing every day – it could be a sentence, a paragraph, or even a page
  • Plan a time and place to journal
  • Approach journaling as a friend you can go to at any time
  • Using prompts helps you give focus and direction in your journal each day
  • Carry a book around with you at all times
  • Get creative – feel free to doodle, colour, and scribble your emotions

The many kinds

There are many ways to put your pen to paper and here are a few options you can explore:

  • Reflective journaling helps you analyse personal and professional growth, and helps you learn from mistakes in the past
  • Daily journaling can be a detailed account of every hour of a day
  • Art or visual journaling is a canvas that lets you process emotions through art
  • Bullet journaling contains sections to log daily to-do lists, record long and short-term goals, track progress, and keep a weekly and monthly calendar
  • Gratitude journaling is a powerful way to build the habit of being thankful and improves overall well-being
  • Travel journaling can be a fun way to treasure memories
  • Nature journaling can be a great way to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the world around you

Where to find them?

We’ve put together five Instagram-based brands that offer pocket-friendly journals:

1) _callidsign_

2) @cittaliving

3) @doodlecollection_official

4) @thejournallab

5) @odd.giraffe

If you’re not a pen-and-paper person, then here are a few apps that help you type your thoughts:

1) Penzu

2) Grid Diary – Journal, planner

3) Journey

5) Diarium

Every new habit can seem overwhelming in the beginning but only until you take that one tiny step. ‘Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works,’ said English writer Virginia Woolf. Your journal is your experience and what you want to remember about your own life. Here’s hoping this guide comes in handy and excites you to take up journaling as a resolution for 2023!

Authored by

Vaishali Vijaykumar
Assistant Manager – Communications

My Journey to Krea

<strong>My Journey to Krea</strong>

By Rama Vaishnavi Bhogavilli, SIAS Cohort of 2025

Where it all began

“It all started seven months ago when I decided to do an internship that aims to help students find their right career routes and make them aware of the opportunities beyond school. Until then, I neither had much awareness of the prospects outside nor was I aspiring to do anything significant. It was after I undertook this internship that the desire to do something worthy started growing. The career path I wished to choose was still very ambiguous. I interacted with a graduate from the University of Hyderabad and her work truly inspired me, at that time I wanted to study something of the same accord. With a dilemma I had on the path I should choose, I started exploring more options. That is when I heard of the concept of liberal education. It was very new to me and I was barely aware of this field or the universities that encourage this sort of education. I started reaching out and interacting with a diverse set of people and based on the information I received, I was completely convinced that this was the right choice for me.”

Liberal education calling

Being a completely new stream, I wanted to get into the best institutions that encouraged this kind of inquisitiveness in us as learners. During my extensive search, one of my cousins strongly recommended Krea as the best choice for me. I hadn’t heard of the university before but after getting a thorough idea of Krea- the Interwoven Learning, extensive non-academic engagements and more, I was deeply impressed with the way of education here. Social studies is the subject that fascinates me the most and something I wish to pursue down my career path too. I have tried engaging in relevant classes and activities, and I am extremely glad that Krea allows and provides a lot of scope to explore the discipline. We have the opportunity to explore varied ideas and perspectives on the subjects which are multi-dimensional and the internships curated for us at NGOs across the country are very helpful. Another area of my interest is Computer Science which has undoubtedly become one of the most essential disciplines in this technology-driven world. 

New beginnings at Krea

In addition to that, apart from academics, I have always had a keen interest in in different extracurricular activities. The spectrum of such activities offered at Krea through various clubs is wide-ranging and there is something to do, within and beyond the classrooms at all times.  Without much ado, I applied to Krea, and after a the entire process of admissions and eventual joining and orientation, I am now at university. It’s been a month and I thoroughly enjoy each moment of my campus life. I am reassured that I have taken the right decision. Despite the little challenges I face in this new environment, I have people here who are always with me and encouraging me at each step. This is a phase I am delighted to experience.

My journey to Krea

<strong>My journey to Krea</strong>

By Wahiq Iqbal, Cohort of 2025

A little something about me

I am Wahiq Iqbal and I come from Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, a beautiful valley nestled between mountains. I am currently a first-year student at Krea University and plan to major in Computer Science. I love designing and also enjoy photography. I am an introvert but I easily open up to people I feel comfortable with.

My journey to Krea

My journey to Krea started in February 2022, when I had just undertaken my 12th class examinations and was worried about my future. I was feeling anxious about getting into a good university. In the process, I was researching on colleges voraciously to see which one would suit me best, and that’s when I suddenly stumbled upon a vlogger, Gauri Goyal who at that time was a third-year student at Krea. She had uploaded a vlog showcasing a full campus tour of Krea and that’s what really piqued my interest to come to Krea.

I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to become as I loved designing but I had chosen science in my 11th and 12th classes. Hence choosing a variety of subjects and keeping avenues open will provide me the flexibility in choosing my pathway in the future. Picking something based on how much you enjoy doing it and find interesting is as good a reason as any, so don’t be afraid to not have your whole life planned ahead of you. I went through the same experience before joining Krea.

I submitted my application form on the last date of the deadline and that too with a lot of typos and errors. For a long time, I didn’t hear anything from Krea and I was losing hope but a few months later when I finally got accepted for the Online Krea Immersive Case (OKIC) round, my happiness knew no bounds. The professors on the OKIC day were so friendly, and I also got to meet fellow aspirants. Before coming to the campus, we had a WhatsApp discussion group where we would get to know each other, our experiences and share varied thoughts.

To speak about my joy at starting my university life, I have to say I was excited to come to university for many reasons. A major one was the independence I would gain, and control over when, how, and where I wish to do things (except lectures of course). Maggi at 1 AM is allowed because no one can stop you (though that’s not healthy, so perhaps the only thing stopping you is your conscience). Another reason was the variety of clubs and committees you can join, anything you can think of, and beyond, it is right here. And if it isn’t already, you can create one and run it yourself. Last but not the least, I am here to learn, and get my degree.

The journey to Krea has been tough but I am incredibly grateful for the fantastic friends I have made, the experiences I have had, and the ones to come.

An interview with Sharon Buteau

An interview with Sharon Buteau

In an exclusive conversation, Sharon Buteau, shares with us her story, a powerful tale of experiences as she continues a decade-and-a-half long journey through India as research leader and the Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University. 

From combining passions, skills and experience into choosing research to drive impact, transitioning from a researcher to heading a research entity, and the insights from collaborating with the right people to solve the most complex of socio-economic problems, Sharon sheds light on some key takeaways from her rich experience. In a note to budding researchers on what would be the apt way to kick off their research journey, Sharon adds, “From the bottom-up. It would be important to understand all steps of a field research, from observation in the field, inquiry with relevant people, and framing research questions.”

What was ground zero, where and when did your curiosity for all things research begin?

My first passion is actually wanting to help people. As well, I was always very curious about other cultures and the big questions on humanity. My choice of a specific career path was more iterative, economics resonated with me as a good part of it focuses on understanding people and their motivations. I also really like working with data. I initially worked in a consulting firm in analytics, which gave me some satisfaction as I was working with data, however, a sense of purpose was missing. The transition to action research came as a result of gravitating towards work that combines my passions, skills and experience. The turning point was returning to university to study Social Research Methodology at LSE, was really wonderful and fascinating and a great segway into what I have been doing for the past 14 years.

In 2008, you arrived in India after a stint with Analysis Group in Montreal, Canada and there has been no looking back. Did you choose India or did India choose you? 

A bit of both, India is very captivating, either you really dislike, or you really like. I initially intended to work for 6 months, working on a small project with a professor at IIMB. Towards the end of my stay, I was sent some job applications from IFMR and it seemed very interesting. When I was hired at IFMR, I intended to stay a few years and was particularly keen on understanding field work to collect data. Was also very motivated by doing research work that is practical and can be impactful in helping people. When I was looking for other challenges after a few years working at IFMR, potentially in Africa, the IFMR President at the time offered me an interesting opportunity to work on combining a few research centers to form one research entity, which is known today as LEAD. That transition from researcher to heading a research entity was a turning point, and one that in retrospect would qualify as “India chose me to stay and take roots”.  

When you look back at the 15 years you have spent here, doing research and building and nurturing LEAD, what are some of the most dazzling memories?

There are many memories, every day in India is dazzling! My fondest memories are most often in the little things that grow to be impactful. Such as being in the field, hearing stories of people and their lives, and interacting with my team and  seeing them evolve in their career. Furthermore, on an almost daily basis, meeting with people from various sectors and domains is really interesting as well. In particular the energy people put into wanting to make a difference is astounding. The ability to connect with so many people and create something that can have some impact on people’s lives is a strong force that pulls you towards even doing more work, despite an already often saturated bandwidth.  

What are some of the key takeaways you have had in your journey as a researcher?

My journey so far in doing action research has been the realization that focusing on a few key strong problems to solve, gathering the right set of people and being really in touch with those who will  be impacted by a solution we are designing are critical.

How powerful is research as a tool for development and also in the process of learning, should students be exposed to the idea of in-depth research from very young days?

These are two distinct sets of questions. For the first, I think actionable research is critical for understanding “what works” to solve complex problems. The research approach needs to be dynamic and collaborative and iterate towards solving problems, then only research can be a powerful tool for development. There is however a strong case as well to ensure that knowledge, even theoretical and more abstract, be consistently documented and read, this often inspires research design and at the very least gives scope for deep thinking.

With regards for the youth to be exposed to in-depth research at a young age. I think it is important for young people to be exposed to many things, but as well ensure that they also are self-aware about their skills and it aligns with their aspirations. 

As a researcher, how do you approach solving a problem?

Observing, listening, deep focus and distilling problems to the most simplest form so they are solvable. Other than that, it requires the right set of people. 

As a research leader and the Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University, you and your team’s work has been an example of using the ‘power of data’ from the ground up to improve socio-economic outcomes for diverse groups. Amongst the hundreds of surveys and field experiences, are there standout experiences which gave you reflections of a lifetime? Something that helped you surge ahead with more power than before?

While I think data is critical, the power of data comes when it  is actionable and reaches the people who can use it  to make guided  decisions. I have three overall insights to prove to be helpful. My first strong insight is more data is not always better. My second insight is that data can be found in many forms, and there is a lot  of value and scope to explore this and integrate it in our work. My third insight is that granular data is really critical. In a country as heterogeneous as India, the story lies in the standard deviations and extremes.  As well, an eye opener was the importance of gender disaggregated data, there are really stark  differences and nuances that are often not appropriately captured.

You and your work are direct advocates of women entrepreneurship, in the same way is there a need for more women researchers in the field of economics?

When looking at India specifically, women’s participation in enterprise development  and in the labor force is low, even compared  to other developing economies. Women entrepreneurs and women researchers are different segments but both have the same requirement to ensure that women at least have the choice and access to equal opportunity to choose to enter or not. In the field of economics, there are many women studying, where they are really underrepresented, in addition to the labor force, at the higher levels in organizations and on executive boards  where key decisions are being made. 

You have worked in diverse fields of research, from financial to gender inclusion, how important do you think is for research to be inter-disciplinary and break silos?

More than inter-disciplinary, research that aims to solve problems needs to be transdisciplinary.  While  inter-disciplinary refers to several academic disciplines looking at a problem from their siloed discipline, transdisciplinary involves focusing on perspectives of different actors that come together to work on finding a solution, by jointly working together to  leverage their specific expertise and knowledge and experiences. To address complex issues, solutions generated by the co-creation process involved in transdisciplinary research allows to combine deep theory and thinking with practical knowledge.

You recently worked on a coffee table book that chronicles the story of LEAD; what has it been like to look back and also in a sense look forward? 

By nature, I am very forward thinking. Am always thinking of the “what next?”  Hence, it was a different experience to go back in time. But the whole exercise was very interesting, in particular to take stock of where we started and how we evolved. It actually gave a great boost of energy and enthusiasm to forge ahead, as there is now a well documented book that showcases our work and is relatable to a wide range of stakeholders.  

For budding researchers looking at heading into grassroot research in the field of economics, how would you suggest they start their journey?

From the bottom-up… It would be important to understand all steps of a field research, from observation in the field, inquiry with relevant people, and framing research questions.

Meet the Researchers

<strong>Meet the Researchers</strong>

Short Snippets From Researchers at Krea

They are inquisitive in their pursuit for answers, meticulous in their approach to data, and tenacious in their adherence to the principles of scientific reasoning. Krea faculty are educators, institution builders and passionate researchers. We asked some of them about their take on research – their inspiration, focus and approach to the process of discovering new knowledge. Through a series of short snippets, we present to you their insights into the fascinating world of methodological and systematic research.

Theory, evidence, analysis.

What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

Q: Why research – what inspires & motivates you to do research?

A: To understand phenomena better, to influence their outcomes (if possible).

Q: What is the focus area of your research?

A: Use of information systems to improve individual and organisational performance.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the key features of a research mindset / research mentality?

A: Well-read (broad and deep), analytic mindset, clear communication.

Q: Your piece of advice to young researchers: how to succeed at research?

A: Ask interesting questions, analyse evidence thoroughly, communicate results and implications clearly.

Interesting, Important, Insightful.

What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

Q: What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

A: Interesting, Important, Insightful.

Q: Why research – what inspires & motivates you to do research?

My decision to pursue academic research simultaneously meets two personal goals: engage in an intellectually fulfilling career that is a good match with my skills and interests, and use my analytical strengths to work on important and real problems that I deeply care about. I find the economic way of thinking to be natural and intuitive, and I am inspired by the idea of applying economic principles to understand and improve the lives of disadvantaged people.

Q: What is the focus area of your research?

A: I am an applied development economist, and I study topics at the intersection of gender, development and public policy. I am particularly interested in questions that explore the role of gender norms and women’s autonomy in different realms of the society.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the key features of a research mindset / research mentality?

A: Commitment to a life-time of intellectual curiosity and continuous learning, the ability to stay thorough and consistent while always keeping the big picture in sight, and most importantly, patience and perseverance.

Q: Your piece of advice to young researchers: how to succeed at research? 

A: Always remember your ‘why’, the reason you decided to take up research in the first place. Learn to enjoy the process – research is highly non-linear, be prepared to welcome the highs and lows. Show up every day, and work on questions that truly matter to you!

Fascination, challenge, and excitement.

What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

Q: Why research – what inspires & motivates you to do research?

A: The chance to think about some very beautiful ideas. The challenge of tackling interesting problems. The excitement of better understanding phenomena that you initially found initially mysterious, and learning about and discovering new ideas.

Q: What is the focus area of your research?

A: I am a pure mathematician, with primary research interests in algebra.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the key features of a research mindset / research mentality?

A: As obvious as it sounds, you should be curious about and fascinated by what you are hoping to better understand. You need to be motivated, persistent, and willing to work very hard. You should have a fundamental openness to new ideas, to sharing ideas, and to reconsidering your own perspectives in light of new information. This includes speaking with other researchers about their and your work, reading what others have written, and understanding connections between your work and the work of others.  

Q: Your piece of advice to young researchers: how to succeed at research? 

A: When you’re young (defined broadly as the first ten or so years after you begin your undergraduate degree, say) try to read, listen, and understand as much about your chosen discipline, in both the broad and narrow sense, as you can. Really invest your time in building a broad, deep, solid foundation. Of course, as an academic you should never stop learning or exposing yourself to new ideas, but you will really benefit from hard-wiring yourself with the fundamental ideas, vocabularies, and intuitions of your discipline at a young age. Invest your time in building connections and working with other researchers, both young and experienced. Develop the habit of attending seminars, colloquia, and talks, even if they are hard to understand at first. Choose the initial research problems you work on with care, and under the advisement of those with experience. And have fun! 

Meaningful, Rigorous, and Valuable contributions to society.

What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

Q: Why research – what inspires & motivates you to do research?

A: Research gives me the opportunity to solve society’s real problems. With those intentions, if my work gets published, it brings immense satisfaction to me. It is a reflection of how I am using my knowledge for the betterment of society. It has also taught me a few virtues of life; the importance of patience, dealing with rejections, and time management. I consider it as my life transformation tool.

Q: What is the focus area of your research?

A: My research interest concerns employee discrimination, diversity and inclusion issues, and happiness in the workplace.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the key features of a research mindset/research mentality?

A: A mindset of creating a positive impact, a mindset of hard work, a mindset of right intention, right effort, and right concentration.

Q: Your piece of advice to young researchers: how to succeed at research?

A: Succeeding in research has the following conditions:

– Spend a great deal of time understanding the problem statement. This will entail what research approach to follow.

– Talk to the experts in the field and other stakeholders (actors) from the beginning till the end. They are valuable data sources. Discuss your findings or opinions with them; this will ensure a holistic understanding of your field.

– Research is one of the fields where shortcuts never work; there are no quick fixes; therefore, one should not compromise on their effort. 

– Get into the habit of reading and writing. Scientific knowledge comes from various sources; limiting yourself to one stream or area will make you an average researcher.

– Most notably, aspire to live an extraordinary life! Discipline and hard work are essential mantras of succeeding in research.

Papers, Chai and Patience.

What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

Q: Why research – what inspires & motivates you to do research?

A: Even before my first thought of pursuing an academic career, research had a pull factor for me. I wanted to do a PhD to give a decent closure to my academic journey and also advance my training in the subject of Physics. But it was during my PhD studies that the idea of a full-time academic career matured. This happened for two main reasons. Firstly, I liked the subject and wanted to learn more about it. Secondly, research as a career gives one a chance to develop one’s own learning curve at a pace one is comfortable with, and keep growing in the process. There may or may not be celebratory milestones, but if you keep at it, every day you add on to your value as a professional. 

Q: What is the focus area of your research?

A: My research focuses on searching for hints of new physics at high energy particle collision experiments like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The idea is that we already have a widely accepted and standard framework of how the various fundamental particles are expected to behave when they interact with each other. But there are various experimental observations and theoretical issues that hint towards the fact that this framework, known as the Standard Model, may be incomplete. So the task at hand is to study the behaviour of these particles in very high energy collisions and try to quantify the deviations from the expected patterns of interactions in such experiments.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the key features of a research mindset / research mentality?

A: I think the most important quality of a research mindset is being more process oriented than result oriented. This is because in research, more often than not, one does not know if the line of inquiry or the method used is correct or not. The only way to make progress is to take the next step and course-correct oneself along the way. Another important element that helps is to always be ready to learn new skills, be open to new ideas etc. Today, the landscape of any discipline changes at a very fast pace, and we need to keep ourselves updated in terms of the know-how of the field.

Q: Your piece of advice to young researchers: how to succeed at research?

A: My advice would be to constantly keep adding to your skill sets, keep getting better and better at what you do, and let this be an attitude that you carry till a much later stage in your career. Another helpful thing would be to keep interacting with colleagues from other areas or subjects and learn about what they are doing. This will help you better contextualise your own research, and you will not feel like an island.

Understanding the world (field) better.

What are the three words that you think of when you hear the word “research”?

Q: Why research – what inspires & motivates you to do research?

A: I research to understand the field better.

Q: What is the focus area of your research?

A: Corporate Investments and Credit Rating Agencies. 

Q: What, in your opinion, are the key features of a research mindset / research mentality?

A: Passion, patience and hard work.

Q: Your piece of advice to young researchers: how to succeed at research? 

A: The qualities (passion, patience and handwork) increase the probability of success, and nothing is guaranteed. I don’t think there is a defined path to success. It is like entrepreneurship; we have to take risks and sometimes we succeed.

Universities and Research in the Indian Context

Universities and Research in the Indian Context

By Prof Ramachandra Guha

In an edition anchored on the theme of  research and its critical role In the world of academics and the very act of learning itself,  it only felt right to invite one of the most renowned historians in India and the globe to share his insights on the ‘history of research’ in the context of Indian universities. In an exclusive piece for The Krea Communique, Prof Ramachandra Guha navigates us through the history of research across natural sciences and the social sciences in one-hundred-and-sixty-five years since the first modern universities in India were founded. Prof Guha sheds light on how Indian universities have failed to perform as creditably as might have been expected but not everything is lost as the recent decades witnessed corrective steps taken by the public university system; and how a whole new generation of private universities will further and deepen this process. Prof Guha emphasises, “In the Indian context, the university must be conceived of as a theatre of intellectual innovation as well as of social emancipation”.

In the year 1857, the universities of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras were founded. In subsequent decades, these were followed by the founding of the universities  of  Aligarh, Allahabad, Banaras, Osmania, Mysore, Punjab and Delhi. Although established by a colonial regime, these universities helped serve as a crucible of modernity in India. As the sociologist André Béteille has written, these founding universities ‘opened new horizons both intellectually and institutionally in a society that had stood still in a conservative and hierarchical mould for centuries’. Indeed, these universities, says Béteille, were ‘among the first open and secular institutions in a society that was governed largely by the rules of kinship, caste and religion’.  Men and women, upper caste and lower caste, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Parsi, all met and mingled together as colleagues and peers, in a manner previously inconceivable in a segmented and stratified society.

These colonial-era universities were focused on teaching and the awarding of degrees, rather than on research. Nonetheless, some of the first great Indian scientists taught and did their pioneering research in these universities. They included the physicists C. V. Raman, Satyen Bose, K. S. Krishnan and Meghnad Saha, and the chemists T. R. Seshadri and K. Venkataraman. In colonial times, there were also some world-class humanities scholars working in Indian universities, such as the historians Radhakumud Mookerjee and Jadunath Sarkar, the economists Radhakamal Mukherjee and V. K. R. V. Rao, and the sociologists Radhakamal Mukherjee, G. S. Ghurye and Irawati Karve.

After Independence, however, the Government of India chose not to build on this legacy of university-based research. Rather, the state established a chain of laboratories under the rubric of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which operated entirely outside the university system. In subsequent decades, some (but by no means all, and perhaps not even a majority) of these CSIR labs did good work in their designated fields. However, in retrospect perhaps the country would have been better served if scientific research had been more firmly located within the university system, as was the case for example in the United States. In the American system, research was strongly interwoven with teaching, while scholars in a particular scientific discipline always had the opportunity to interact with those in another scientific discipline. Working in the same university structure also encouraged scientists and humanists to understand one another and their work.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, Indian universities continued to produce first-rate scholarship in disciplines such as economics, sociology, and history. However, so far as the natural sciences were concerned, Indian universities were largely concerned with teaching alone. In later decades, some belated, and modest, attempts, were made to atone for these missteps. Thus Hyderabad University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, both founded in the 1970s, encouraged original research in the sciences as well as the social sciences. However, both these universities were funded by the Union Government; meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of Indian universities, run by State Governments, had little or no interest in scientific research.

What then of higher education in the private sector? This has thus far been dominated by engineering and medical colleges, run on commercial lines, and with no interest in research at all. Only in the last decade or so have we witnessed the founding of private universities offering a broader range of courses and disciplines, and with larger intellectual ambitions. I have in mind here institutions such as Ahmedabad University, Ashoka University, Azim Premji University, Jindal Global University, Krea University, and Shiv Nadar University. These universities all conceive of themselves as much more than teaching shops. They all hope to become centres of research as well.

It is now one-hundred-and-sixty-five years since the first modern universities in India were founded. As I have argued, they have opened up spaces where people previously segregated by caste, class, gender, language and religion could meet with one another as independent human beings. However, on the intellectual and especially research front the Indian university has not performed as creditably as might have been expected. This was partly the result of conscious government policy, which took scientific research out of the university system into self-enclosed laboratories shut off from society. Some corrective steps have been taken in recent decades in the public university system; and we may hope that the new generation of private universities shall further and deepen this process. In the Indian context, the university must be conceived of as a theatre of intellectual innovation as well as of social emancipation. 

Padma Bhushan awardee Prof Ramachandra Guha Is a renowned historian, biographer and journalist. He Is also a Distinguished University Professor at Krea University.

To love the unsolved mysteries- My research journey

To love the unsolved mysteries- My research journey

By Prof Swarnamalya Ganesh 

In the course of curating opinion and experiences pieces for our edition, we sought a seasoned researcher who could shed light on what is pegged “the research mindset” , a first-person account of the journey through research, the preparation, trials and tribulations, and perseverance as one attempt to solve the unsolved. Who better than a veteran researcher, academic and practitioner to take us through this journey of inquisitiveness and enquiry, which is interesting but also tough and demanding. Prof Swarnamalya Ganesh takes us through a journey through her words, from the persistent questions as a young practitioner to the early years as an academic researcher that led her to her calling- the Early Modern South Indian Nayaka era. As Prof Ganesh poignantly narrates, the need to retain the child-like joy in the “spirit of enquiry” each time one steps into the field, understanding that “I know not fully, yet” all through the milestones, and how the true hallmark awaits not just in the great courage exhibited during research but in the patience that emerges when the courage subsides. 

Often research is laid down as an obvious path forward in many academic disciplines. But having learnt an art form such as dance from the age of three under hereditary Gurus, my love and devotion was always to my traditions of practice. But slowly, my friends and even my Gurus noticed the stray but persistent questions I began asking; sometimes to them but often to myself. If we look around us, everyone is curious and is always asking questions. The “do you know-s” fill the days and hours of our lives and various media including social media, feed into such human curiosity and the need to consume social knowledge about people, our environment, society, science, and meta things as well. But when one recognizes the first signs of their questioning mindset as a characteristic that is there to stay beyond curiosity, that is when they do something more than to reach for the daily newspaper or google- research.

Academia will prepare an endless questioning mind with the apparatus needed for a permanent future it seeks with research. Firstly, reading every work ever published on one’s subject of interest, whether it be useful or turns out to be useless tinsel, may seem like an exercise in drudgery which ultimately winds up turning the feverish mind into a pitch ready to absorb. Then somewhere in the early years of research, one begins to ask less questions and starts looking at the complex intersections of circumstance, context, society and history that define each fact held by other predecessors or in dominant narratives thus far. 

I personally realised that I had met my calling in the Early Modern South Indian Nayaka era when everything I read, every question I asked, every solution I sought led me back to Tanjavur, Madurai and Gingee Nayaka world. That is where I began my journey. 

The most key factor in research is to find a great guide. In my case though, my guide turned out to be less instructional and more of an intrusion. This meant that I got to actively seek mentors from across disciplines, each one of them an expert in their area, be it history, archeology, epigraphy, language, musicology. What a blessing that turned out to be for me! One of the reasons I chose to join Krea was because my research strongly interweaves multiple disciplines and perspectives. This reflects strongly in my practice too. In these years, even as I write, speak and perform my research, the one dictum that I set out with, which is “I know not fully, yet” gets more and more confirmed.

Research is great, not researchers. So, one of the best lessons I learnt from some of my mentors is to allow my findings to be pliable to change brought on by perspectives and new facts that emerge from all quarters. To retain the child-like joy in the “spirit of enquiry” each time we step into the field. Research also requires tremendous patience and diligence. I recall as the year 2009 was coming to a close, I had reconstructed a dance repertoire called Mukhacali. I was pleased with the outcome and therefore moved on to other repertoires. But in 2011 when I revisited Mukhacali, in light of new facts and with a body that by then had experienced other forms such as Perani, Jakkini etc which I had reconstructed, I decided to dismantle the whole of the earlier version, only to restart. The result was not one but three more reconstructions of Mukhacali each from the 10th, 12th, 14th centuries before arriving at the 17th century version. Both as performers and researchers we unashamedly ply our trade, but the eternal scapegoats for such exercises for me, are my good-natured students who patiently watched me undo and redo my own findings over many years until I was satisfied.

The true litmus test comes though, in the form of dejected friends and family who give up any hopes of making plans for an outing with us. The total and absolute control that one gives the subject of our research to have over us, ensures that we become immersive participants of the era into which we wish to dive. So shopping, movies and outing become a thing of the past and luxuries afforded only by those who float on the surface. 

Writing one’s research, speaking about it, in my case also performing my research are integral parts of the journey and I enjoy doing all of it, however I thirst to share my work with other researchers and always grab any slight opportunity, even to be in the midst of others who are in the pursuit of their feverish minds. Sharing, listening to each one’s experiences and perspectives keeps us spirited through what can otherwise be a lonely journey in research. To me the Fulbright Fellowship that I received soon after I finished my doctoral research provided this fraternity. Great courage is exhibited during academic research days by scholars, especially towards a doctoral degree. But the true hallmark waits to be seen, when the courage subsides, and when patience emerges. The patience to be with the subject, to ebb and flow with its course and to continue to love it for its yet unsolved mysteries. 

Prof Swarnamalya Ganesh is an Assistant Professor of Practice, Literature and Arts, Global Arts at Krea University. A veteran performer with over 35 years of experience, Prof Ganesh is a scholar of dance history and a trained academician in art practice and sociology