First off, apologies for a lack of longer posts recently. Hoping to write soon on my visit to Mumbai, what to wear in India, and a guide to train travel! The last couple of days have been exhausting with not much time to write! Or the energy where there has been the time!
I’ve arrived at Christ University, Bangalore, and pretty much settled in. The university was approximately half an hour’s ride by auto-rickshaw from the main train station, where I arrived shortly after 9am a couple of days ago. Studying at Christ University, one of the top private universities in India, is a far cry from dragging my backpack around the bustling streets of Delhi or Mumbai.
Bangalore has a different vibe to those cities. Obviously, I’ve seen very little of it so far, but it is, from what I’ve seen, extremely developed. Perhaps overly so – in the sense that the dichotomy between the rich and the poor has become so stark as a result of the city being an international IT and industry hub. I wouldn’t say it’s worse than what I’ve seen elsewhere in India, but it does hit you when contrasted with the comfort of the university.
The first day of orientation was a day for settling in, and I needed a rest after the train ride from Mumbai and subsequent haggling over taxis and auto-rickshaws. It was nice to finally meet all the other girls after communicating solely via a very active Whatsapp group for the last month!
The first couple of days of the course have consisted of an inaugaration ceremony and icebreaker activities with our Indian counterparts, watching a performance of Yakshagana – a Karnataka folklore dance, a tour around the campus (which I missed out on in favour of sleep, due to being so shattered I could hardly keep my eyes open), several introductory lectures, and a visit to an urban slum and NGO supported by Christ University.
It’s been very full on, and I’ve got some thoughts about the course so far, particularly yesterday’s field trip, which are a bit difficult to process and I’ll write on in more detail later, particularly regarding the manner in which the university run and introduce us to their projects, and the thin line between constructive and destructive visits to developing communities.
Part of the reason I was keen to take part in this programme was to experience India from a different perspective to the one I had whilst living and volunteering in Dehradun last year. Working first hand with an NGO for a longer time is very different to taking an hour or so to visit one, and I was intrigued as to how an academic approach to women’s empowerment movements in India would differ from how the organisations operate on the ground. I’m always keen to experience other cultures and in particular think about the differences in academia from country to country, and region to region.
The fairly sheltered community of the university is a stark contrast to working directly with disadvantaged women and living with regular people in India. Christ University is highly ranked and extremely wealthy, and so I think that to a large extent, we’re having something of a rose-filtered view of things. Not to rant too much – I’ll have another post for that! For now, I’m still trying to process the first few days of the experience, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to write more soon!