select album
follow us on
Spring Break In India
by Devika  10 Apr 2013
Spring Break In India

The excitement for our Service Trip to India had been building gradually from the very first pre-departure meeting we had. For me, even at the airport, there was also growing anticipation about how my peers would react to the easily misunderstood ruggedness of my home country. But 12 hours and a misplaced suitcase later, there were still smiles across the board and a prominent buzz of excitement as we were greeted by two CMU Pittsburgh students and Maryam, one of our very own CMUQ students! 

We rushed to throw our bags into the two Mahindra Scorpios (the Indian equivalent of a Landcruiser) waiting for us and told the drivers to take us to the best breakfast place in town. Of course, the patriotic Maharashtrians that they were, they took us to Haldiram’s, a sweets and snacks manufacturer based in Nagpur but with restaurants all over the world. So, for their first meal in India, Scotty for Service savored the rich flavors of South Indian dosa, idli and uttapam with sambar and two kinds of chutneys. Thus started our weeklong exploration of food, culture and knowledge.
After breakfast, some last minute shopping and a sweat inducing, spice filled lunch, we made our way to Wardha, the little town where we’d be spending most of our time. My friends got to experience true Indian driving for the first time as we made our way along a narrow two-way road, our driver stealthily dodging on-coming traffic as he overtook the vehicles in front of us. They decided it would be best to take a nap for the rest of the hour-long ride to our accommodations at Gandhi Ashram!
Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram, or spiritual hermitage, was built around his teachings and mantra of simple living. People who follow his teachings go there to live the way he lived and serve the community the way he did. So, all of us who are used to our luxurious Middle Eastern lives were a little taken aback by the minimalist interiors of our rooms complete with thin mattresses, Indian style toilets and thatch roof. Despite our usual lifestyles, most of us quickly got used to fetching our own buckets of hot water and fixing our mosquito nets supported by bamboo sticks every time they collapsed on us! The only real encounter we had with Mother Nature’s minions was when we found a grass snake hanging out near my friend’s bed. As for the lizards, centipedes, ants and mosquitoes, we soon learned to co-exist peacefully with them.
We spent our days teaching basic computer skills to women from nearby villages and assisting the CMU Pittsburgh study abroad students while they taught Business skills. On the very first day, several people felt left out because language barriers prevented them from interacting with the women and being effective teachers. However, we soon devised a way for them to teach the women with a mix of Basic English and sign language. I was especially proud of some of the Scotty for Service members for making the effort to learn a few words of Hindi and Marathi so they could interact better with the women!  That first day, we were also invited for lunch at the nearby temple. In India, temples serve delicious, lavish meals to their visitors everyday and I am glad that my peers got to experience the warmth and hospitality with which they welcomed us!
From the very first day, one thing that stood out was the enthusiasm and dedication the women had for learning new things. As soon as they heard me speaking Hindi or Marathi, they’d ask me to sit with them and translate what one of the other students was teaching them. This meant that as one of only three people who could speak Hindi as well as the local language, Marathi, I had my work cut out for me! But although it was a hectic experience, it gave me great pleasure to teach such innovative minds and to get the opportunity to improve my broken Marathi!
One of the most moving experiences was on our last teaching day when we had a women-only discussion on what it means to be a woman in our different cultures. Many of the women from the villages came up and shared general or personal experiences that they have had as women in rural India and it hit quite close to home with me. It stood out to me even more that although I came from an Indian  family that originated from a small town, I had been gifted with open-minded, understanding parents who were encouraging and financially able to send me to a prestigious university. 
In the evenings, after a hectic day of teaching, we would go out and explore the central part of Wardha town. Thanks to one of our CMU Pittsburgh friends’ cravings, we made several ice cream runs to Dinshaw’s, one of the most popular ice cream parlors in India! We found a few quaint little restaurants where I introduced my friends to Indian Chinese food, Murg Mughlai, Paneer Butter Masala and Naan along with several other authentic Indian dishes. One evening was even solely dedicated to shopping for sarees made of real khadi silk, a specialty of that region of Maharashtra.
Before we started our journey back to Doha, we spent the day in meetings with Apoorva Bajaj, executive director of the Bajaj Foundation, which is supporting the women’s self help groups with all their endeavors. We discussed the plans we had, as Scotty for Service, to come back and teach more women computer skills that would be useful for their business ideas. My team and I were impressed by the quick responses and innovative suggestions Mr. Bajaj gave us to further improve our plans. That week in India was an extremely productive one and I hope Scotty for Service and CMU continues to have strong connections with the Bajaj Foundation so we can continue to help those innovative women achieve their biggest dreams!
Add your commnets
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved to education city
website designed and development by netdesignplus