Tomorrow morning, I am off to India. It has been three years since my last trip to India, and I am very excited to be back. After seventeen hours of waiting/flying through Boston-London-Bahrain, I will arrive in Delhi. I am travelling with my friend from Nursery school, David Manning, a recent graduate in economics from George Washington University. Upon our arrival in Delhi, we will meet up with Anjulika Sahgal, a Brandeis Sophomore. She lives in Delhi and has graciously allowed us to stay in her home.
We hope to see many museums in Delhi, along with the Lotus Temple. This temple adheres to the Baha’i faith, and I was very moved by it the last time I was in the city. It is an incredibly serene and open temple surrounded by gardens. We will also spend one day in Agra to see the infamous Taj Mahal, as well as the Red fort and other Mughal buildings in the area.
After Delhi, it is off to Ranchi, the capital of the state of Jharkhand on June 9th. My paternal family lives in Chakradharpur, a town three hours by road from the capital. Once I arrive in CKP, the railroad abbreviation for the town and colloquial slang, I will get to work with Ekjut, located in Pansua, Jharkhand.
Every time I come to India I always see something new, and indeed the air-conditioned metro system in Delhi was incredible to see. Covering a distance greater than the Boston T, for only a couple rupees, David and I traveled around the whole city, from India Gate to the Lotus Temple. However, we were not able to enter the temple because it was Monday, unbeknownst to us the temple was closed on Mondays.
While in Delhi, it was very interesting to stay in Gurgaon. Gurgaon is a city to the Southwest of Delhi that has developed tremendously in the last ten years. Filled now with malls and apartment complexes that seem to have spontaneously risen out of the ground, the landscape seems to be in a state of flux, with overturned soil giving way to golf courses, gas stations, and highways. Along with these developments there was also a large track of land with a billboard proclaiming an effort to keep Gurgaon green by planting one million trees.
In Gurgaon, I stayed with Brandeis Sophomore Anjulika Sahgal. Although her mom had not been to Brandeis, she said she was very happy to have met President Fred Lawrence on his last trip to India with other parents of students. We spent much time playing Risk with her brother Nikhil and even saw Men in Black 3 in 3-D in a Gurgaon mall. I’ve found that the speaker system in Indian movie theaters tend to be much better than those in the US. We also met two Filipina girls that David had a mutual friend with. They had just been in Delhi for two weeks working for a Japanese financial news company.
We spent a day travelling to Agra on the air-conditioned Volvo bus. The ride was very pleasant, as the road is not bad between New Delhi and Agra. We were able to sleep along most of the way. Once in Agra, David and I spent the whole afternoon at the Taj Mahal, relaxing in the Mosque to its left. Many people came up to us wanting to take a picture with David. We also met the whole family of a newlywed Muslim couple. Although one of the group initially scolded us for sitting the wrong way in the Mosque, we later talked for some time with the family. Apparently the newlywed husband had just graduated from school with a degree in economics, and his wife was a teacher.
I’m sure that after the time in Delhi, it will be a very interesting contrast to be in the village. I have only seen one mosquito so far, and am sure that this will now change. With regards to Ekjut, I also just found out that the NGO has been shortlisted for the India Initiatives Awards. Very excited to be in the village and work with Ekjut.