Bharat always has a special place in my heart; I have been there so many times with my family, seeing different states of our motherland. This year, after my GCSEs, I decided to visit Bharat with Connect India – a voluntary organisation that aims to connect participants on the programme with the everyday lives of ordinary people in India. This was the real attraction, along with sharing this journey with 16 others of my age group.
Elements of our trip (Ahmedabad) still remain fresh in my mind today – the experiences we were given certainly did both, giving insight and connecting me to India. I already have been connected to India for many years but this programme made me think and reflect on the activities we did, what they meant and taught me. I would like to share 3 things that were most memorable and had the most impact during the trip.
Firstly, the visit to the blind school. We were blindfolded and the blind students took us around. Not being able to see really frightened me and I felt so helpless yet they were so confident, running around as able as we would but with our eyesight. I found this quite amazing. When I described it to people back in the UK they seemed amazed but mainly shocked that this was possible. Majority of the teachers and the headmaster were also blind. The way in which they taught the students was really interesting using braille. It made me realise that regardless of how privileged you are, your background or physical abilities everyone is more than capable of learning and being educated. Also that they have no choice but to adapt according to their abilities and circumstances whereas in the UK we aren’t use to adapting as we have everything. And that was one of the main things that stood out for me from this visit.
The next thing was Sewa cafe. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was definitely an enjoyable experience. The whole concept of the Sewa cafe really impressed me and I found it great that all the staff were volunteers. Everyday they had a set menu from which their customers can choose. They are allowed to order as much food as they want and when they leave they can give a donation of their choice. The spirit of the whole cafe was very joyful and open and it made you want to be there. That was definitely a day when we all came together to work and put our efforts into something which gave back to the hard working community. We all got to work in different areas of the cafe and talked to the customers and met many new people from india or even other tourists who had come to travel. It was different because the atmosphere that was there isn’t reflected in any normal cafe.
The last thing was the village. Though previously I have visited our family’s village I have never actually stayed in one, especially for 2 nights. So this definitely had an impact on me. If I am perfectly honest at first I wasn’t looking forward to it.. at all. But after I meet my host family and got to know them I really enjoyed my time. For the time that we were there we went to the farm twice and cut the grass for the buffalos! This was undoubtedly more difficult than I expected. Squatting and trying to cut bunches of grass really killed my legs and I eventually ended up needing a time out… Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience. Though this village was more modern then I expected the amount of labour work they do everyday was quite admirable. Early start at 5am, go to the their farms get food for the buffalos, feed them, make food for their kids, clean, wash up. It may sound similar to what most of what our mums do except for the farm part.. but just seeing this made me realise that I should be grateful for all the little things that I have which they may not. Not only that but even without all the comforts we have for example phones, electricity, water, toilets and showers, cars which we currently have in the UK, they seemed so much happier with what they had. And that has stayed with me since I’ve returned from India.
After I came back from India I really missed it there. Mainly because whilst I was there I felt like I was learning new things all the time, meeting new incredible people and being occupied. That was something I wasn’t doing when I came back and I had a really strong urge to go back. A part of me was ready to put myself back into my comfort zone but at the same time I wanted to keep some self discipline and told myself that one day I would go back and extend my experience and discover things for and about myself.
So the main things that I brought back with me is that regardless of what I have, I’m always going to try and put my life into perspective and be content. Also I will be grateful that I have all the opportunities that I do including education, extra curricular activities and so on.