India at the deep end

Incoming Tata Fellows get a crash course on resource-constrained communities and the challenges of the developing world.

orientation village visit

This story appears on MIT News.

It has been said of India that the more you get to know it, the less you understand. The country’s vast size, diversity, and complexity gives it a knack for defying logic and confounding accepted wisdom.

MIT’s newest cohort of Tata Fellows — graduate students supported by the Tata Center for Technology and Design — were introduced to a slice of all that is fascinating, difficult, and wonderful about India in a joint orientation session this August with their counterparts at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay. The six-day program took the MIT group on a journey through wildly different environments, from the swarming kaleidoscope of Mumbai to a remote, foggy mountaintop villa, from one of Asia’s densest slums to a countryside of sleepy villages and farms.

The goal, according to Tata Center Program Manager Nevan Hanumara, was to create a dissonance that would challenge students to “develop a nuanced understanding of life and its challenges at the bottom of the pyramid.”

It was the first experience of India for many, while others had visited before and some were born and raised there. For all of the Tata Fellows, who span numerous disciplines and will spend the next two years creating and implementing practical solutions for the developing world, it was a time to increase their knowledge of the problems they’re trying to solve.