India has always been on my bucket list to go to. I have not had any opportunities to go to India until I saw IndoGenius’ program, ‘Reimagining India’. IndoGenius is a group based in India that do study tours around India. Hosting students from America, UK and Australia, IndoGenius’ mission is to ‘increase the greater sum of knowledge for the benefit of all mankind’. This is done by programs such as ‘Reimaging India’, where they go to NGOs, government bodies and start-ups, as well as different tourist places. Overall, you get the sense that this country, despite what you see in the media, is influential and is creating ideas and initiatives to help humankind.
India is overwhelming. Not only because, for example, Mumbai has the same population as Australia, but because of the colours, smells, the juxtaposition of the poverty and the wealth, and as well the culture, history and language. While the media portrays India as this foreign country that is violent, it is far from the truth. Going to the Lotus Temple in India, a facility where all eight major religions can pray in one space and are all equal, was amazing. Not only because the architecture was stunning, especially in the evening, but there is a place that emphasises the importance of equality and share understanding.
IndoGenius have also taken us to see start-ups which have included Jaipur Foot. This organisation essentially helps those who are disadvantage financially and are an amputee with a new prosthetic leg for free. They have helped over 1.55 million underprivileged Indians with a new prosthetic since its inception in 1975. This creates an equal playing field for those experiencing health concerns. While I found the concept and the organisation amazing, it made me think how lucky I am in Australia where we have Medicare and most things are covered.
Sheroes Hangout is an organisation in Agra that supports women who are victims of acid attacks through employment and social inclusion. They created a café where these women can serve customers great local dishes and as well as provide a space to educate others about their story and acid attacks in India. Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI) has estimated that over 500 reported acid attacks happened in India in 2015. However, these numbers are not accurate due to numerous factors such as if the attack has led to death, if the attack happened at a rural area or even victims hiding the information about the attack because the attacker was a husband or a family member.
I have four tips in order for anyone undertaking this program to have a successful experience and gain something from India.
Ask questions! Do not be afraid to ask the most basic question. Often that would be the most important question. One part of the program is that you meet two politicians. I asked Shweta Shalina, an entrepreneur and politician from Maharashtra state, “What advice would you give to women wanting to get into politics?” Needless to say, her answer was amazing. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice either.
I was one of the very few who brought business cards. I gave a link to my LinkedIn account and contact details. This program gives you amazing opportunities to network with start-ups, businesses and even the Australian High Commission. There are opportunities to connect with leaders of India and it could possibly lead you to a new career.
This program will allow you to exchange ideas. Every evening we will be able to have a reflection session where we gathered our thoughts of the day and share our opinions. Besides this, we got to share our ideas and hear Indian leaders’ ideas about topics ranging from the environment to poverty. Additionally, there is a session after our visit to Dharavi, the second largest slum in Asia, where we heard ideas and opinions from locals.
Be open and accept new ideas
India is totally different to Australia. While Australia’s population is approximately the size of New Delhi and we are both colonised from England, some of Australia’s policies, especially concerning poverty, cannot simply magically be adopted into Indian society. The population and cultural differences are two most important areas where Australian policies might not be able to work. However, it does not mean that Indian society cannot be open to these new ideas. Additionally, this program will expose new ideas and experiences that you might not be able to experience in Australia. Indians are happy and welcoming despite their economic status. For example, seeing Dharavi first hand was an opening experience, however, accepting that these people were happy and content with what they have was a new concept. As an individual it made me be appreciative of what I have.
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