last two weeks in India have been in many ways my most challenging.
I have been integrated into the team of Indian AIESEC students as
if I had always been part of them, and have played a central role
in the recruitment of new AIESEC members.
has involved interacting with hundreds of students everyday, both
on a one to one basis and in presentations to larger groups of people.
In true student style though I have still found time to 'burn the
candle at both ends' by doing some travelling and meeting up with
the trainees on a regular basis...
dancing - for an audience
first reaction when the music started was to close my eyes. I was
hoping that when I opened them again the 70 Indian students, of
whom I knew none, would no longer be sitting in front of me. So
I began, 'big fish, little fish, cardboard box' - all the cheesy
dance steps I had done a hundred times before, only in a conference
room along with 200 others, never on my own on a stage in front
of complete strangers.
part of the AIESEC culture to do dances, especially at conferences,
in order to keep you awake and alive. Sadly a prospective member
at the information seminar we were running had heard about such
dances, and asked for a demonstration. Immediately I was volunteered
by those who I thought were my good Indian friends of six weeks.
at the last minute, one other bold and daring person, who incidentally
is now my favorite person in India, joined me on stage. If you have
ever seen the film 'About a Boy' it was kind of like the bit when
Hugh Grant finds himself doing a solo of 'Killing Me Softly' in
front of a school of 10 year old children. As I looked out at the
shocked, scared and amused faces I heard the words of my father,
"It builds character son, it builds character"!
members are recruited from colleges all over South Delhi, which
make up Delhi University. The first step is to promote AIESEC on
these campuses through approaching people, or giving classroom presentations
and selling the concept of AIESEC in just a couple of minutes. This
is challenging enough, because you know what a great opportunity
AIESEC is and so could spend hours talking about it. In some cases
teachers have even chased us out of classrooms before we have got
the main points across, but I guess that's all part of the learning
has been quite demoralizing at times to talk to people, and then
find them not interested in what you have to say, but every person
who is enthusiastic and excited, is worth 100 rejected stares.
certainly been an experience where I have learnt not to take rejection
personally and so have grown and grown in confidence. I now feel
an amazing sense of achievement as I look over at the 300-plus applications
we have received so far and look forward to the next stages of selection.
university experience seems quite different here to that in the
UK, especially in terms of the freedom of students. It reminds me
much more of post-16 colleges. I have seen none of the huge lecture
theatres that dominate the UK institutions or the huge halls of
there are small and in some cases single gender colleges where the
majority of students still live with their parents. I don't know
if this is a fair representation of Indian universities, as I know
there are bigger campuses, but whatever the case, everyone still
seems to be having a great time in completing their studies.
Chaos in Old Delhi
you stand at the entrance of the Red Fort and look towards the man
made jungle that is Chandni Chowk, the main road in Old Delhi, your
heart does start to beat slightly faster (see photo at the top of
the page). All you can see and hear is the chaos of thousands of
people, vehicles, and market stalls piled together in a space that
barely seems big enough for people to move. With a deep breath you
cross the road and join the chaos.
in the road
submerged in the crowds, it's hard to see a way out. With what seems
to be in no particular arrangement, the street is filled with people
moving around, cycles and auto rickshaws beeping their horns and
ringing their bells, market stalls set out all over the floor regardless
of road or sidewalk, people pushing carts up and down trying to
sell fruit and not to mention the cows and goats that go about their
life oblivious of the madness around them.
is none of the western refuge of fast food restaurants and shops
you might find in New Delhi. Even buying the smallest item takes
all your bargaining skill and effort.
street in Old Delhi
bazaars leading off Chandni Chowk seem slightly calmer, as they
are small, narrow and over-arching, however they too are still filled
with people and activity.
two hours of pushing through crowds of people, waving away salesman
and dealing with 44° of heat, we headed for a rest at a much
calmer air-conditioned coffee bar. Such an intense environment is
best visited in small blasts.
area of Old Delhi is definitely the place I have visited with the
most character and individuality. Apart from the cheap trainers
some of the markets sell, the area seems to have avoided even the
strongest forces of westernization. For an experience of Delhi Indian
culture, religion and character Chandni Chowk is definitely the
first place I would recommend.
beers & laughter
continued to spend time with the trainees and get to know them better.
Aga, Phillipe and I, after finishing long days at work, spend many
a night sitting out on our terrace, enjoying a nice cold Kingfisher,
and reflecting on all the funny and different situations we have
encountered during our day.
great because we are all becoming accustomed to the difference in
culture, and situations that were once irritating can now be taken
with a light heart. I don't remember ever laughing as much as I
have during the last few weeks.
(left) shares a meal with other AIESEC trainees
we get time we have also been able to go to a couple of trainee
parties. This is such a great experience because it's a party filled
with around 40 people from all over the world.
are taking place in every language you can think of, and no end
of stories and advice is being shared. How can that fail to be a
have learnt that not only does AIESEC send people on traineeships
for cultural experiences, but it also brings nationalities from
all over the globe together, in order to share their experiences.
the most of it
approaching my last couple of weeks in India, and as I do I am growing
fearful of not making the most of all the time I have had.
feel like I am just settling into Indian life, and have only had
a quick glimpse of this amazing country and city.
that, when I look back, I feel I have seen and experienced so much,
and it really strikes me how diverse and immense country this is.
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by Andrew Webster