Namaste India! Namaste Lucknow!

by | Nov 3, 2012

Contributed by: Franziska Litwinski
Dated: 23rd October 2012

This, I would never have guessed, never imagined. So many people, scaring me beforehand: “Be careful! Return healthy! Take a mosquito net! Don’t wander the streets! You’ll be stared at! Watch out for what you eat! and so on. But I can assure you: I’m doing just fine.

It’s been almost a week since I arrived in India on 18th of October. After a lot of last minute organization, I am so happy to finally have arrived save and sound. I will be spending about 6 months in India, most of which I’ll be spending in Lucknow working as an intern for KHEL.

Surprise, surprise

So far,India welcomed me a lot less “overwhelming” than I would ever have imagined. Things are different, like traffic: there are bikes, carts, cycles, scooters, motorized Rickshaws, bicycle Rickshaws, dogs, pedestrians, cows, trucks, wooden hand carts, street sellers – all sharing the same space. I’ve been, by now, told some 3,4 times, concerning traffic: “We have rules”. Full stop 😉 Watching it, makes me still giggle all the time, never feeling unsafe, though, because even though there is a lot of honking, noise, often (in my German traffic sense 😉 ) : chaos going on, everything works out in the end and people are patient and stay calm.

Secondly: Food. Indian cuisine – I just love, I feel like in gourmet paradise actually. And no health issues at all so far. Besides, I feel very well looked after. There are people caring for me, taking me to places, asking how I am, picking me up and bringing me back, coming over bringing food, inviting me over – hospitable India at its best :)This especially applies to the internship I’m here for and the people related to it: KHEL. After a lot of email exchange from Germany, I was really happy to finally meet the team on Friday. I feel inspired by the young, motivated team, and I’m looking forward in working with them.

Getting started

Right on Friday, we went to an event, the theatre play “Nothing like Lear”, where we had gotten permission to promote KHEL. It was very interesting to see an Indian theatre, to be involved into the project’s activities right away. Whereas first I felt intimidated walking up to people, I became more self-assured after some minutes.

The very next morning, I took part in the first session, at MAMTA School. All of us were together in a car (four in the back, which we would NEVER do in Germany;) ), and I enjoyed the ride to see more Lucknow and its surrounding. Having arrived, I immediately liked the appearance and layout of the school. It’s small, something I consider to be very good in order to attain a sense of community and trust among everyone. I was curious about how I’d be reacted to, but I immediately felt comfortable when I realized I’d not be getting any excessive, special attention. More unconsciously than consciously, I tried to just blend in, to see how the sessions work, observe the behaviour of everyone involved, figure out how everything works.

Startling observation

The first thing I noticed was that all the children seemed happy and content to be where they were. I felt a sense of community, trust and a caring familiarity, which I consider so crucial for a learning environment. Secondly, all of the children taking part in KHEL followed or ran ahead happily, eager to take part. What surprised me was that even though it was a big (for me, anyways) group of about 40 children, all of them were very attentive and patient, even when often times it was just one child’s turn at a time. Furthermore, the children seemed very engrossed, and followed the whole session all to the end very closely. Even though I could grasp the final discussion only to a certain extent due to my lacking Hindi knowledge (a fellow intern kept me updated about the main contents), I was pleased to see and hear what the children learnt – and that, giving them room for it, from their own mouths.

More to see than meets the eye

Trying to round up my first experiences in India as such, as well as my first KHEL session, I think my main conclusion is this: all the warnings, the half frightful, half admiring looks whenever I told I’d go to India, reveal a certain attitude of ours, me included. We see the poverty, the traffic, the spicy food, the sewages, the (in our eyes) simplicity of the whole way of living, and consider it to be “underdeveloped”, thereby saying that our way is the better. What we miss out on, though, is: Why lock up animals – don’t they have a right to be where they want to be, just like us? Traffic here is congested, loud, “unorganized” – ours is too fast, being – to a certain extent – not any safer than here. We see the holes in the ground and consider them dirty, not realizing that the western toilet is less hygienic than the Indian style one. We have closed doors, big apartment buildings, missing out on the street and community sense which develops in smaller living quarters, as people pouring in to greet and look after a woman returning home after a journey. We might have computer-equipped elementary schools, but do we have this community sense I felt in this small partner school of KHEL? This eagerness to learn? Let’s go figure.