On Friday 16th September 2011, politics students at La Trobe University participated in a workshop on key issues in contemporary Indian society with Dr Peter Friedlander from La Trobe University in Melbourne and Simmi Kaur from Wodonga Senior Secondary College , as part of the first year subject Introduction to Asia: China and India. The workshop was followed by a wonderful dinner at the Indian Tandoori restaurant in Albury.
The aim of the workshop was to provide participating students with a taste of Indian culture, history and politics to improve their cross-cultural awareness and enhance their knowledge of India, and increasinlgy important country on the world stage and key actor in Australia’s near abroad.
India is a country characterised by great regional, caste and religious diversity, enmeshed together by the ancient social structure of Hinduism. In his presentation, Dr Peter Friedlander discussed regional identity in India by examining the distinctive regional cultures of Maharashtra, Punjab, Bengal and Gujurat.
Dr Friedlander is Senior Lecturer in Hindi and Buddhist Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne and has extensive in-country experience in India. After he left high school he lived in India for five years where he learned Hindi in Varanasi and became fascinated with the study of South Asian cultures and traditions. His research interests include Hindi teaching pedagogy, the history of religion in South Asia and Buddhist studies. He is currently involved in research on the interaction of Asian and Western Buddhist and Hindu traditions and the issue of how Buddhists see India, and how India sees Buddhists (bio).
In what was a visually and aurally spectacular presentation, the students were given a personal window into today’s India by Simmi Kaur, who discussed Punjabi Sikh culture and identity using video footage from her sister-in-law’s wedding. Simmi also brought in her and her husband’s wedding clothes, which the students got a chance to try on.
Simmi Kaur teaches history at Wodonga Senior Secondary College and has been involved with previous collaborations between WSSC and La Trobe University Albury-Wodonga.
The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.