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Nashville’s South Asian connection

December 2006
Nashville’s South Asian connection

Nashville in Tennessee is so closely associated with country music that other genres usually don't make big news there. Yet that's exactly what happened when Schermerhorn Symphony Center officially opened in September this year. Tickets for the opening night were so hot that only invited guests could get them at $2500 each. The Nashville Symphony, along with soloists Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain, performed their "Triple concerto for banjo, double bass and tabla," which these artists had specially composed for the occasion. Talking of Nashville, Muhammad Yunus, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, has an enduring connection to the city. After winning a Fulbright Scholarship, he'd earned his Ph.D. in economics at Vanderbilt University, also known as Vandy. Yunus taught in Tennessee for a while and then returned to a newly independent Bangladesh. Widely known for his pioneering work in microfinance, his Grameen (or Rural) Bank became famous throughout the world for its loans to impoverished people who'd been ignored by other lenders. "As of May [2006], Grameen Bank had 6.61 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom were women," notes the Tennesssean. "The bank has more than 2200 branches and services roughly 71,300 villages in Bangladesh. It has lent more than $5 billion over the years, nearly 99 percent of which has been paid back." Dubbed the Banker to the Poor, Yunus is a recipient of many other prizes, including Vandy's first Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1996.

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