Category Archives: UKIERI – Study India Programme

Study India Programme: Reflecting upon my stay

Asking me to only write a 500 word reflection on these three incredible weeks is like asking someone to condense all the stories and teachings in every holy book that ever existed into just a few hundred words. It’s impossible! This trip was everything and more. It’s freed me from so many restraints I had placed on myself. Restraints from following my passion for different faiths, beliefs and religions to the simple restraints of always trying to please others and worrying about others opinions. Now I have released these passions and confidences I shall not restrict them again. This trip has bought a new fascination every day. From the simple act of placing flowers over my head to the complex understanding of the social sciences. I discovered so much that sparked a bonfire of fascination in my heart that I never want to douse. Often the trip bought about frustration. How is it that India has managed to do so many things that large, richer western countries are still busy arguing about without actually doing anything. This goes the other way too. There are so many simple suggestions put forward to the Indian government and country, that would be relatively straight forward to achieve but instead the rest of the world receives a collective head wobble and a shrug.

So, as well as being freeing, fascinating and frustrating I could use any adjective, good or bad, and I would be able to write about something I heard, saw, smelt or did on this adventure that would fit it. When we first arrived Nick said to us ‘for every true thing about India the opposite is equally true.’ As a mathematician myself, this made no logical sense and I almost took it upon myself to prove this wasn’t the case. You can’t have two completely opposite statements being equally true! However, sure enough, even now I can’t think of anything in India that goes against Nick’s statement. It, as a country, is two extremes that live side by side without ever disproving the other. It is a country that can only be summed up by the Indian head wobble, “it is both this and it is that.” It’s everyone’s paradise and everyone’s hell. I am still unsure what it was I went to India with in mind, everyone had told me different things to expect but I don’t think anything prepared me. I arrived as a country bumpkin with my rose tinted glasses on, immature and naive. Slowly, over the three weeks, I removed my glasses, with help, to reveal a scene more colourful that I could have ever dreamt. Yes there were dark patches, but they boarded the colour and made the brightness more intense. My eyes have been opened, my heart stolen and my mind filled. I have, for better or worse, been changed. Thank you, I could not recommend this opportunity enough!

Post by: Libby Down

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Study stay in India

As I boarded my flight to India I had no idea what to expect. I knew nobody, no Hindi and very little about either Delhi or Mumbai. The second I walked out into arrivals and met fellow students outside
Costa Coffee I instantly felt a part of something amazing. And amazing is exactly how the Study India Programme was.

I will never forget our first trip to Old Delhi on our first full day; my first real introduction to India. The sights, the sounds, the colours, the glancing onlookers and very inquisitive staring Indians! It was a huge culture shock to the system, as if you just received a cultural slap in the face. I was instantly encapsulated by what I saw and couldn’t wait to see more as the program continued.

In one of the talks we met with an author who stated that for everything you say about India, the
opposite is also true. From the old fashioned, cramped, shocking streets of Old Delhi to the modern and open areas of New Delhi, such as the parks and area surrounding India Gate, there is something for everyone. India can be whatever you want it to be. If you believe the media and stereotypical images of India we are led to believe and concentrate strictly on the poverty, the societal issues, the pollution etc. you may leave India with a very negative perspective.

But if you look and explore deeper you’ll find such a friendly, open and inviting country. Talk to almost any local and they’ll be interested in what you’re doing, what you think of their country, whether it was anything like you expected it to be. It’s like looking through a dirty window; you need to look behind the dirt on the surface and further beyond the window to outside world.

When we visited Dharavi slum in Mumbai; the largest slum in Asia. I certainly had my own initial reservations, especially having never seen or visited a slum before. I was gob smacked by the sense of community, the positive attitude of the residents and the general outlook on life. People are living way below the poverty line, yet they are happy (or on the surface they certainly seem it!). As we ventured further in to the slum we were surrounded by families with children excited to see us, dancing, lights and celebration. For somewhere that I initially perceived to be so negative, I was blown away by the community spirit. Locals were outside dancing in the rain as they celebrated a festival called Ganesh Chaturthi. We joined in too.

I have left India with such a different outlook on life. Deep down I think we all know how
lucky we are when we are brought up in the western world, yet there are so many things we take for granted and never fully appreciate, such as education and food. These things are simply not available to so many people. I think we can all learn a lesson from India and that is to be positive and thankful every day for everything that we have. I had a fantastic time on the Study India Programme and cannot wait to
return in the future.

Post by George Wiley

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Hauz Khaz village and Dharavi experience: Study India Programme

I first fell in love with India when I was back home, through the novels of a great Romanian religion historian and philosopher, Mircea Eliade. In his novels he portrayed a magical land, India that he adored so much.

My journey to, through and from the Pearl of the British Empire does not begin in a port, like it did for the aforementioned author, but at an airport. As we arrived in Delhi I was greeted by a swirl of sensations and newly found emotions that shook me down to the core. In the monsoon heat of the first morning in India, we set out to see New Delhi for the first time and were greeted by a noisy, fast-paced and wonderful city.

One of the highlights of the Delhi leg of my stay was at the British Council for a session regarding their mission in India and a meeting with Sam Miller. From the latter I collected a couple of quotes (about his life in India) that will stay with me for the next years at university : “I write why I try to understand why I think what I think” and “I am for better or for worse, distinctive.

The next part of the journey was a visit to the Hauz Khas village. Watching the sun set, being the witness to the gold rays on the dusty red ruins of the fort overwhelmed me. Time came to a standstill and the world was in absolute equilibrium. It is there that I met an old Sikh with his grey beard, white turban and ebony staff. He approached me while my eyes were arrested by the scenic lake and his simple ways struck a chord deep within me. We were both looking out at the dusk and he just smiled and waved his hand across the landscape seeming to say “See, this is my home, see how beautiful it is!” I was moced to tears and the only thing I could say was “It is so beautiful, is it not”? Of this I’m sure that he didn’t know what I said, but he surely understood the instant connection. It is this that mad my tryst in India an extraordinary one.

This hectic day concluded with us getting lost on our way to a Hindu temple where we took part in a ritual where we were blessed by Brahmins (pandits), the entire experience having a calming effect on me.

It was a day full of excitement and new experiences on cultural, spiritual, historical levels.The effect of the mantras chanted by the priests lingered long after the ritual ended. We wandered around the surroundings as the sun set and the final bell rang for chants to begin.

Mumbai trip culminated with the most extraordinary visit to the largest slum in Asia, Dharavi. The experience left me speechless and during my time there I barely spoke a couple of words, except for questions to our tour guide from Reality, an NGO that uses 80 per cent of its profits to implement social programs in the slum.

Our visit coincided with the first day of the 10-day festival dedicated to lord Ganesh, the god with a head of an elephant and protector of all things. The tour of the slum is an experience I will never forget and it changed the way I look at the commodities of modern life back home. Strolling along the narrow and dark paths of the slum, taking sneak peeks through flowery curtains into the life of the people living there and watching through open doors how they work, live and love has been a most enlightening happening.

It was shattering to see the happiness of the children that we engaged with in small conversations on side streets and their eagerness to say a simple “Hello”. But what touched me the most was their perseverance, their genuine belief that if they work hard enough, not they, but their children or grandchildren will have the chance for a better life.

Dharavi cannot be described or truly depicted in words; it is a swirl of activity, joy, sadness and hope. It is so overwhelming for outsiders through the reality that it paints that you seem to be part of a story, not reality. A story where people can live and work in the same 4 square metre room, where the entire neighbourhood celebrate their God in unison, where children still know how to enjoy childhood games and where every couple of feet you are greeted with a warm smile.

Everyone has something to learn and take back home from Dharavi. It is here that you are stripped down to your soul and drawn into a whirlwind of emotions, sensations and ideas. Dharavi is where efficiency, entrepreneurship and empathy meet; it is a tightly knit community before it is anything else.

 Post by: MARIA-ALEXANDRA RADU

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My study stay and work experience in India

Taking part in UKIERI Programme was an exciting and insightful experience for me. During the three weeks of the programme I visited the most spectacular places of historical and cultural significance in Delhi and Mumbai, the two metropolitan cities which play a major role in the Indian politics and its rapidly growing economy. Fellow participant students and I also met a number of prominent people from India and those from abroad who embarked upon India and found home there. It was fascinating to learn about their experiences in India from and their views on the issues surrounding India.

We spent most part of our time in Delhi where in addition to visiting places and attending lectures and workshops I also gained work experience while doing internship in the UK India Business Council (UKIBC), the UK organisation helping British businesses to operate and/or establish businesses within India. While doing my research for UKIBC I discovered many interesting facts on business and investment opportunities in India finding the answer to my big question why more and more international UK companies want to increase their presence in the Indian market. It appears that the main reason is the cost effectiveness of services and manufacturing due to the low cost human resources (as a result of the grown Indian population), which mostly comprises of young potentially employable people under the age of 24.

To address and satisfy the needs of densely populated India, the government has introduced numerous measures aiming at drawing investments into India both internally and from overseas. One of these government’s initiatives is the programme of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) which mainly concentrates on development of the Indian infrastructure to boost economic growth. I researched the investment opportunities in India’s Defence and Aerospace sector, which have been given high priority by the Indian government as it follows from media and experts’ comments and reports. Even though the share of foreign investments in Indian Defence sector has been limited by the current FDI Regulations to 27 per cent there are a lot of business opportunities in India for the British Air Defence manufacturers especially now that India has diverted its attention from Russia for strategic partnership in defence sector and actively looks for cooperation from other countries. This presents a good opportunity for the declining, due to the public spending cuts, British Defence industry to invest into and to develop the Defence sector in India. However, spending money and resources on strengthening India’s defence without a good reason comes in conflict with the need to assist many of those homeless, poor and deprived people who I saw on the streets of Delhi and Mumbai including those struggling for survival in the slums.

Whilst doing my research for UKIBC I also discovered another opportunity, which in my view is attractive and potentially mutually beneficial both for India and Britain following introduction of the new Indian legislation, which reduces by half the tax on dividends declared by the Indian subsidiaries overseas to the parent company in India. India brought this law in order to encourage ‘repatriation’ of the dividends from the overseas subsidiaries back to the country to remedy the negative effect of the weakened rupee. In my view this presents beneficial investment opportunity not only for India, but also for UK businesses especially those struggling in the current economic climate. The Indian law which allows a generous reduction of taxes from 30 per cent to 15 per cent on dividends repatriated from the foreign subsidiaries back to the parent company in India may encourage such Indian giants as TATA to take over UK companies in order to make profit and declare dividends back to India. Taking advantage of the UK and India double taxation agreement where the dividends declared to India should not in theory be taxed in the UK, this may potentially present an attractive opportunity for the financially strong Indian businesses to acquire struggling UK companies and turn them around to make them profitable, thus helping the UK businesses survive in the current economic crisis.

Overall in the course of the Study India Programme I have discovered a great potential that India holds for the world. This has encouraged me to explore the career opportunities in the organisations having strong ties with India especially in the area of international and commercial law cooperation.

Post by – VITALI SHURANAU

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