LOS ANGELES, CA - The 16th Annual Sardar Patel Award Event, the Inaugural Professor Damodar SarDesai Memorial Lecture, and the Memorial for Dr. DamodarSarDesai were held at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center here on May 21. The event started with a presentation by Harkishan Vasa and Dr. Vandana SarDesai,
Prof Akhil Gupta outlined the award selection process and how his team evaluated 15 doctoral level theses to select the winner Dr. Isabel Huacuja Alonso for the 2016, $10,000 award. The award was presented by Harkishan Vasa, President, FSPA and Prof Akhil Gupta,Prof Of Anthropology and Director of the Center for India and South Asia.
Dr. Huacuja Alonso then presented her award winning thesis on ‘Radio for the Millions: Hindi -Urdu Broadcasting at the Crossroads of Empire.” For the audience, it brought back sweet memories, listening to the golden voice of Amin Sayani and Binaca Geetmala broadcasts from Radio Ceylon. Dr. Huacuja Alonso spent over three years in various parts of India doing research on her thesis and she became fluent in Hindi and Urdu.
A Q &A session with audience participation ensued. After an introduction by Dr. Gupta, the inaugural Professor Damodar SarDesai Memorial Lecture was delivered by Dr. Monica L. Smith, Prof,Dept of Anthropology and Cotsen Institute of Archaeology , UCLA Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies. She spoke on the topic - “On the Cusp of Discovery: New Archaeological Research In India”. In Dr. Smith’s words, “The concept of discovery is not only about what is known, but is also about what is yet to be known”. In this lecture honoring the memory of the well-known and beloved historian Prof. Damodar SarDesai, Dr. Smith explored the subjects of archeology and history that are on the verge of new knowledge. She said that the many Indian individuals and teams working on Archeology have utilized an array of innovative approaches that provide new data and interpretations on subjects including the ancient Indus world, the role of India in the Indian Ocean, the beginning of towns and cities, and the emplacement and meaning of historical monuments such as the Ashokan inscriptions. Galvanized by new technologies and strong public interest, the forthcoming decades will, as she said, contain great promise for the discovery of many new things about the ancient Indian past.
The presentation was followed by a lively Q & A session.
Vasa thanked all the sponsors, charter members, current directors and supporters for making the event a success.
This was followed by a delicious vegetarian lunch , along with the memorial for Dr. Damodar SarDesai, sponsored by the SarDesai family. The memorial began with both his daughters, Dr. Vandana SarDesai and Dr. Archana Bindra reciting a few Sanskrit shlokas, followed by several prayers on the video screen during lunchtime, which had been carefully selected by his wife Bhanu SarDesai, who had chosen her husband’s favorite prayers.
After lunch, the first speaker was Chief Guest Zev Yaroslavsky, former L.A. County Supervisor, and currently Director, LA Initiative at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Policy. He was a graduate student of Prof SarDesai in the 1970s and he spoke about how Dr. SarDesai was one of the two people who had the greatest impact on his life, and that he carried his influence with him throughout his life and his career. Dr. Arnold Kaminsky, a Prof of History at CSULB, also one of Dr. SarDesai’s graduate students, spoke in glowing terms, and said that he was grateful that the festschrift, which consisted of a book with each chapter written by a former student in honor of Prof SarDesai, and which had been compiled by Dr. Roger Long and himself, was read with much appreciation by Dr. SarDesai over a year before he passed away.
Many other speeches followed made by close friends including Navin Doshi, Dr. Vikram Kamdar; Dr. Tara Sethia, a former student; Indra Gandhi, a prominent lawyer; and Vasa. This was followed by the family segment of the memorial. Lona Brown started this off.Very heartfelt and emotional speeches followed from Dr. SarDesai’s grandson Arnav Bindra, his son-in-law Dr.Sanjay Bindra, younger daughter Dr.Archana Bindra and older daughter Dr.Vandana SarDesai.
A video interview from 1985 of Dr.Damodar SarDesai, Dr. Stanley Wolpert, and Dr. Richard Sisson was shown to the audience. After this, speeches were made by Mrs.Madhavi Shah,niece of Dr. SarDesai, and close friends Dinker Shah and Uka Solanki.
Dr. Vandana SarDesai then thanked everyone for attending the memorial. The Department of History, UCLA also hosted a memorial for Professor DamodarSarDesai on May 23 at the UCLA Faculty Center. On June 2, UCLA will lower its Bruin Family flag to half-staff in honor of Prof SarDesai’s contributions over a half-century to UCLA.