Hey everyone! My name is Aashna, and I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I just finished my freshman year at Penn, where I am in the Huntsman Program for International Studies and Business. My area of focus is Hindi and South Asian Studies, so I am so excited to be diving into rural India at Samaj Pragati Sahayog in Madhya Pradesh this summer!
I just arrived in India after traveling around Prague and Switzerland with my family for two weeks. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Mumbai, a familiar feeling rushed into my veins, reminding me why I love being in India so much. India is so alive—your senses are first saturated with a dizzying intensity, but then you soon find some sort of inner peace amidst constant whirlwinds of activity. India forces you to experience and see life in its most naked state, and I think that’s its greatest charm.
So that leads me to the question, why India? Above all, I believe that if you’re remotely interested in anything from emerging markets to social justice to spirituality, you have to pay attention to India. The fact that one in every six people in the world is Indian makes India’s sheer size something to think about. India is the largest democracy—it democratically elects both Marxist Communists and right wing Hindus all in a melting pot of languages, faces, religions, castes, geographies, and histories. There is an infinite amount to see and learn. And even though many are struggling for daily survival, I always find such a buoyant hope and joy in all the people I meet.
So what is the big question I’m asking? I’d say I’m simply curious about how farm laborers and other individuals who make up the rural economy live their daily lives. I want to understand both their struggles and the innovations used to combat them.
Ultimately, I’m excited to get down and dirty in the nitty-gritty aspects of SPS’s work, from the watershed management system to the self help groups. I am most looking forward to meeting ordinary people and sharing stories.
So Andrew and I are off on our journey, attempting to navigate the sheer insanity of the Indian railways system to somehow get to Indore. Stacks of white paper with hundreds of names, aggressive coolies, staring crowds—hello India. It’s great to be back!