Adventures in India!
It is hard to believe we only have 15 more days left in India! We have stayed very busy over the past week! Last Friday we watched a documentary film Diverted to Delhi about call centers in India and what the hiring and training process is like. We then actually visited a Call Center. This got us thinking about the impact business can have on a culture—both positive and negative. While call centers are providing young people in India with jobs at above average pay, it can have quiet a toll on the worker. They have to “neutralize their accent” and are fed all sorts of information about how great countries like the United States are, because it is the manager’s hope that this will prevent them from having any sort of negative attitude towards a country which might come through on a phone call with someone from that country. Fascinating.
We also visited Qutub Minar which was started by the first Moughal ruler and continued to be built by four different rulers after him. It is interesting because it mixes both Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. Saturday, after watching Salaam Bombay, we visited Salaam Balaak Trust—a NGO which proceeds from that movie go to and which helps to get children off the street in India. We went on a tour led by a former child from the streets. Salaam Balaak Trust is interesting because rather than forcing children into a shelter, they allow children to be free agents to make their own decisions. For children who are not ready or willing to make the commitment to living in the shelter, they have set up a something called a “contact point” which is right above the police station next to the train station (where many of these children sleep at night). Children can come to this contact point during the day to get food, help from a doctor, and interact with other children through different games and activities. I think for many of us this was moving and empowering because every day when we walk outside we are confronted with the poverty of many of the children and people here and it is hard to grapple with what as individuals or as a group we can do to help make a difference. It is amazing to see an organization that gives children who live in the streets opportunity and allows them to grow into educated, motivated young people who have big aspirations for the future. (For more information or to donate, visit their website at http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/inside.asp.)
Monday, we visited Gudwara Bangla Sahib temple which is where Sikhs practice. Tuesday, we visited Akshardam Temple which is were Hindus practice. Yesterday, we woke up very early to hop on a train to Agra. First we saw the Taj Mahal which has an interesting story behind it. Shah Jahan was a Moughal king who fell in love with a woman named Mumtaz Mahal. They were together for 19 years and had 14 children. He consulted her about everything and she even accompanied him when he went to battle. She ended up dying in childbirth at one of these battle camp grounds and he had her body embalmed and transported back to Agra where he built her tomb—the Taj Mahal. We also visited the Agra Red Fort as well as the tomb of Achbar who was another Moughal King.