It’s really interesting when you learn about the textbook version of India; how the pillars of social activity and political stability contribute to the economic growth of the nation.
I suppose growing up as an Australian-born Indian has made this textbook version one that particularly sparks my curiosity. The most intriguing part is that the textbook version is simply a vision that the world has for India; and one that India seeks to pursue.
The Cross Cultural Practicum component of the Global Leadership Program provided me with an amazing platform to volunteer in India, and to fulfill my goals of inspiring young children and empowering women to reach their full potential.
So off I went. Five flights later I landed in the middle of the Pink City, Jaipur, in Northern India in the middle of a sweltering, 50 degree summer. I always forget how crowded India is, and how the smell of spices and sweets linger in the air for hours on end.
The beauty about Jaipur is that the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, is cherished in almost every aspect. Gandhi once said, “If we want to reach real peace in this world, we should start educating children.”
I could not agree more. The first shelter I volunteered at was located in Govind Nagar, east of Jaipur, where I saw that the power of education and the forces of home values had a huge impact on the children that were coming in and out of the shelter. The children were rescued from exploitation in bangle factories, human trafficking assaults and family violence. For children that had been through so much, they had the brightest smiles across their faces and the most vibrant personalities and of course – possessed a willingness to learn. My time with the children was spent playing cultural games, dancing to Bollywood music, covering my hands with mehndi artwork and learning about the importance of safety and security in the surrounding areas.
Once I left the children, I headed to a shelter that was dedicated to empowering women to foster their own source of income. This shelter was perched on top of a hill in east Jaipur, and screamed of a Who Runs the World? Girls type of aura. I loved it. Upon entering this shelter I was greeted by dozens of women who had experienced household abuse and trauma. The women were learning how to sew sari blouses and create hairstyles and makeup looks for brides, in the hopes to be hired by a bridal party, as big weddings are frequent in India. We talked about the importance of developing skill-based experiences in order to pursue a trade in India, and the meaning of quality of life and the most important aspect of that phrase, which is happiness.
Upon reflection, the values enforced by society, namely; women cannot seek an education, nor can they work, as education and employment is for men, impacts the mentality of the children and the women in a negative, and almost isolating way that reinforces outdated stereotypes. As such, the textbook version had not lived up to the reality of India. This presented me with a classic case of the realist vs. the dreamer; the wicked problems of society and the overall stability of India.
Across seas, and through time-zones, I think about the children and the women and the memories created with them. I am thankful to have had this experience to volunteer in India, and will ensure this journey is imprinted further into my education.
Sita is a Postgraduate GLP student in her final year of the Master of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism. Sita was able to claim this experience as part of her Cross Cultural Practicum.
The Cross Cultural Practicum is one of the core components of the Postgraduate Global Leadership Program. The Practicum provides students with the opportunity to participate in cross-cultural and professional experiences, including overseas study, community service and attending internationally focused events.