Scholarship goes from marriage donations to Kent State fund

Heather Scarlett

In gratitude for performing traditional Hindu weddings, couples would donate money to Surinder Bhardwaj, professor emeritus and Ohio certified Hindu priest. Bhardwaj then deposited the money into the Gandhi Scholarship, a $300 scholarship for graduate students doing research in Indian culture in geography. He eventually began asking that checks be made directly to the scholarship.

Initially, the scholarship started with just three people contributing to the fund on an annual basis.

“It didn’t make any headway until I became a priest,” Bhardwaj said.

Rajrani Kalra, a graduate student currently doing her dissertation in California, was one of the most recent students to receive the Gandhi scholarship.

Kalra said she plans to go to India to do her fieldwork researching technology and interurban disparities in Bangalore, India. She checked with the geography department to find out what financial support she could get.

“It is a minimal amount, but that amount really matters,” she said. “The round trip ticket to India was $1,200, so the scholarships (helped).”

Jay Lee, chair of the Geography Department, said there are no real requirements for the scholarship application, except to write up a one or two page request telling Bhardwaj what the money is for and what the research is about.

“We haven’t put a lot of hard and fast rules or regulations on it,” Bhardwaj said.

The scholarship is available for geography graduate students whose research relates to India and Indian culture, he said.

“We would like students to do more research than is currently done,” he said.

Bhardwaj said students are required to study in India because “the relationship between India and the U.S. is growing.”

Lee said the scholarship is now officially a university established fund and is no longer Bhardwaj’s money, but he decides who receives it.

The scholarship is available throughout the year whenever a graduate student wants to do fieldwork, he said.

“(The scholarship) helps Kent State because we are a university concerned with study in different major cultural regions of the world,” Bhardwaj said.

Contact religion reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].