Do svidaniya Russia, Namaste India!
Post by Sam Kizer and Radhika Chouhan – Class of 2015
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Finally we said goodbye to Russia, left the winter wear and cold behind, and settled into the hectic but wonderful neighborhood of Maharani Bagh (or the aptly named, New Friends Colony) in Delhi. Just to set the scene: We landed and exited the plane to the strong, pungent smell of India infiltrating our system. After the typical squirms and nasal adjustment, we ventured outside and were elaborately welcomed with flower garlands and plenty curious eyes. The late night, sleepy drive to the hotel was only disturbed by a casual elephant sighting in the middle of the road. And this was only in the first hours of coming here. This definitely set the stage for a wonderful first week in the much anticipated final leg of BRIC.
Our first week in Delhi was a multidimensional flood of Indian culture. The streets, the people, the temples, the traffic, the food and the illnesses, the peace and the stress, the poverty and the happiness; it’s a melting pot of emotions, experiences, and energy. If we talked about all the significant events that happened, we’d have to discuss fifteen different outings. But the most memorable of them were definitely the Bollywood dance class, the Chandini Chowk scavenger hunt, Sunita ji’s cooking classes, and Kahaan’s hospitality.
Our first exposure to Bollywood was experiential. We learned how to dance to one minute of a popular song, “Radha”. Our dance teacher was a charismatic and skilled man. He taught us the elegance of nimble fingers, graceful twirls, and powerful “dhumkas” (basically a hip pop). Though we didn’t get to put the usual screw-the-light bulb-and-pet-the-dog move to use, all of us performed in three teams by the end. The healthy competition kept us motivated, fought off the jetlag, and inspired students to take more classes!
The scavenger hunt was by far on the most stressful, yet thrilling activities the group did in the week. We were all split up into threes and given a list of goals to achieve in four hours with a mere three hundred rupees ($5.00). Together we learned how to navigate in one of Delhi’s busiest and most notorious market. With the use of broke “hinglish”, all of us successfully completed the hunt. Through the process we understood the meaning of being resourceful. Some decided to walk, others found a local tour guide, some even decided to drive the rickshaws themselves. Among the organized chaos of Chandini Chowk, we learned the value of personal connections and building relationships. The system worked on a who-you-know basis which has become a common theme in all the BRIC countries. Moreover, we were astounded by the huge amount of religious diversity and consequent lack of disharmony. The fact that people for all races, religious affiliations, and socioeconomic classes were represented and all thrived in the community was awe-inspiring.
The cooking classes that the lovely Sunita ji gave us were especially appreciated by the group. Our biggest surprise was how easy it was to cook the delicious dishes we had been devouring in the past couple days. After watching our Palak Paneer and Gobi Aloo cook to yummy perfection, we faced the ultimate challenge: making the round roti. As per Indian standards, only very few of us would qualify for good housewives and husbands, if the roundness of our rotis were the only judge. The biggest learning experience was how quick (ten minutes) and simple the cooking procedure was. Our preconceived notions of the arduous work required to create delicious Indian food were shattered, the same way our understanding of Indian society and culture was. The culture and people may seem too foreign and difficult to understand but once you break it down, step by step, you find that it is actually quite simple and enjoyable. Food is clearly a focal point in the community and we have definitely adequately indulged in both, the food and the culture.
To top off the week we were invited to, Babson alum, Kahaan Kaithan’s house for dinner. This night revealed to the group the continuous strength of Babson’s large network and global scope. We really appreciated being members of the Babson community that night. Their hospitality was unparalleled. The fact that they were so willing to accommodate and welcome twenty five strangers into their house, treat us to divine food, and allow us to wallow in luxury was so generous and much appreciated.
We could go on to explain every event and every takeaway, digging deeper into our experiences and unpacking the meaning in all that we’ve seen, but it would be unfair to give it all away and not allow you to experience it yourself.
Today, it is Diwali, the festival of lights, and we have the pleasure of celebrating in Jaipur! More on that next week 🙂