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