Foundation for India Studies Celebrates 10th Anniversary, 50 Oral Histories


U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (center) presents a Congressional proclamation to keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Klineberg with Sam Merchant, South Asian Liaison for Congressman Al Green (far left), FIS Founding Chairman Krishna Vavilala, India Consul General P. Harish and FIS Event Chair Ponnada Narayana (far right).

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON:  The Indian community has made its karmabhoomi (workplace) since the late 1960s and is now a major contributor to the ethnic diversity of fourth largest city in the United States.

As a recognition of the Indian community’s presence, the Foundation for India Studies (FIS) held its first India Heritage Day at the historic Julia Ideson library’s reading room on Saturday, March 26 afternoon. The theme of the celebration was “Our Roots, Our Voices, Our Heritage.”
The celebration also marked FIS’ 10th anniversary and the completion of 50 oral histories, via video taping, of the community’s first-generation pioneers.

“It all began with the launching of the India Studies program in 2006,” explained Founding Director Krishna Vavilala. “In 2011, we undertook the Indo-American Oral History Project as there was no adequate record or documentation of the experiences of the first-generation Indian immigrants.”

Dr. Steven G. Craig, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Social Sciences at the University of Houston, explained how the India Studies program provides students with a minor and study abroad opportunities.

The oral history project was inaugurated by former Houston Mayor Annise Parker. The 50 video interviews were conducted in partnership with the Houston Public Library (HPL) and the Houston Community College (HCC).

All the interviews are archived by the HPL at their Digital Archives at the HPL Metropolitan Research Center. The HCC has made available its Spring Branch studios available for FIS video interviews

Roosevelt Weeks, Deputy Director and Chief of Staff, represented the HPL. The HCC was represented by Jimmy Adams, director, Media Arts & Technology Center of Excellence.

An audience of about 100 guests had the opportunity to view a short documentary of the achievements of the Indo-Americans and a selection of video clips from the 50 oral histories.

Dignitaries at the celebration included Indian Consul General Parvatheni Harish and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents the 18th District. Sam Merchant, South Asian Liaison, presented a proclamation on behalf of Congressman Al Green of the 9th District.

Consul General P, Harish congratulated the FIS on its achievements and promised continued full support and cooperation from the Consulate for “preserving the social, cultural, literary and artistic heritage of the community.”

Keynote speaker was Prof. Stephen Klineberg, Founding Director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Dr. Klineberg reported on his demographic research on the city of Houston and a survey of the Asian community in Houston. “Houston has become America’s most ethnically diverse city, a model for the 21st century,” Dr. Klineberg explained, where it will be possible to be more American by remaining Indian.”

For additional information on FIS activities, visit