Thursday, September 13, 2012

India: 10 days is not enough

I’ve done a decent amount of traveling both during college and after. Most of my travel experiences have been as a backpacker with only a travel guide to help me find a hostel to sleep in, tell me how to get to the sights I want to see, and give me a few local phrases. I rarely booked hotels in advance, traveled in a group, or had a set itinerary, and I believed this allowed me to get to know the place I was visiting on a deeper, more real level.  So I was skeptical about our trip to India and thought it would be a typical executive business trip that would just show us a bubble of beauty in India, I thought we would not have the chance to explore its real culture. I was wrong. Very wrong.
Even though I recognize you need more than 10 days, 30 hours of lectures and a couple of books to understand the complexity of India, what we got from the Weekend MBA Program was excellent, a good balance of education, business, culinary, social responsibility, history, tourism and culture.
We started the trip in Chennai, a city of 9 million people which, according to Forbes magazine, is one of the 10 fastest growing cities in the world. Right away we took a bus to the downtown and walked by the central market where we were immediately in contact with a diversity of flavors, colors, languages and people in a city which is more chaotic than I have ever seen, and paradoxically works. During the following days we had the chance to visit companies from different industries such as automobile, computer, technology and healthcare that gave us a deep look into this broad industrial base city. We had a lecture at a local university and shared time with local MBA students. We visited touristic sites, tasted great food while eating straight with our hands and enjoyed the night life.
In Delhi, we visit Airtel, the fifth telecommunication company in the world. We had lunch in the company cafeteria, the first I’ve ever been to where there was a live band during lunch hour. It was impressive how the competitive level of the company was balanced with a festive, fun, and energetic atmosphere. Of course, in Delhi we went shopping in various markets as well. I am not sure if we had good deals from a local perspective, but we were so proud of the way we were able to bargain in the end. We visited the Taj Mahal, Humayun's Tomb and other monuments. There was such a high level of planning and perfectionism in the structures that was such a stark contrast with the unfinished infrastructure projects in many places around the parts of the country we saw. Overall, for 10 days we continued to enjoy the amazing food, the night life, and the sense of peace and security which seemed to be infused in the culture.

As a result of this trip, I have a greater respect for Indian people and their sense of adaptability and tolerance to face challenges in a reality with few of opportunities for everybody. India made me realize how lucky we are in other parts of the world and appreciate our reality more while at the same time understand that having or not having a certain reality doesn’t need to be what determines a culture and the way of life. I don’t know if I am truly on the path to understanding Indian culture, but this trip definitely taught me a lot. I remain intrigued about India and hope to one day further explore the country and its culture.

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