A Great Teacher

How was India?  This is a question that I heard countless times from friends and family after returning from my internship. Coming back from a place that was a whirlwind of chaos, it is a question equivalent of asking how is life? Trying to describe the experience in a paragraph is an impossible task let alone trying it describe it in a couple of sentences. Having been my home for the last 3 months, India has been an indescribable experience. It is a land so full of diversity and energy and so many experiences and memories that it will be a part of me that only I myself will fully understand. This summer has left its indelible mark on me and taught me new perspectives that will undoubtedly shape who I am.  The people who I met, the places where I have been, and the things that I encountered have taught me lessons that have given me a new outlook on life. India has been a place that is so different from the places where I have been before and this difference has been exciting, enlightening, astonishing and disorienting, frustrating, and shocking like the country itself. This difference has made the experience what it was and offered opportunities for contrast that taught me a different way of living.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons of India is the value of friends and family. Indian families are noisy, nosey, and never far apart. Family members always know each other’s business and secrets are impossible to keep. But this also means that there is always someone there to help or give advice when you need it. The value of family is also built into the very nature of the culture. For example, weddings are never small affairs with 100+ participants being the norm and many family members travelling hours to attend.  They are excuses to gather the entire family together and offer valuable opportunities to reconnect. Many festivals such as Diwali, Holi, and Rakhee show that valuing family has been an essential part of Indian history. Perhaps the immense competition and hardship faced by many in India necessitates it but there is a strong sense of interconnectedness. One never truly feels alone and no matter where you go there is somebody you know.

Every day in India is very different and you never know what the country will throw at you but one thing that remains unchanged every day is chai time. From the driver who stopped in the middle of the road at a chai stand to the guard who invited us to sit down for chai as we were rushing to begin a four hour journey that we only had three hours to complete chai is more than a sweet drink but represents a period of reflection. This slow pace of life in India allowed me to absorb more of the world around me and to take in what was happening instead of blindly rushing from place to place. I began to notice the beauty of the sunset instead of simply turning on the lights. I took time to stop and listen to the music of the singing on the streets instead of walking by with my head down.  Chai time was a chance to reflect on the day, prepare my mind for what was ahead and tackle the world with new energy.


Worthy of reflection

A smile is free and priceless and I was able to find a smile on most of the faces I saw in India. No matter who they were or what situation they were in everyone seemed happy. There was a spirit of joy that transcended the chains of the materialistic world. That is not to say more was always great and everyone was always working hard to generate wealth but while they were doing so people were satisfied with what they had. A famous saying in India is that there is always someone worse off and this seemed to make people appreciate their lives much more. I realized that happiness is a choice that you have to make for yourself.

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                      Happiness is everywhere                                               Spontaneous Dancing 

If you try texting and driving in Delhi it will be a not a question of if but when an accident will happen. In a city where the most important traffic law is efficiency, causing cars to swerve in and out of the lanes trying to go through any gap possible, you must be alert at all times. This has encouraged people to develop a habit of disconnecting from technology and living in the moment instead of living online. As a bustling metropolis Delhi was alive and so full of energy. People were much more willing to talk with each other and I met so many people on the streets, in cafés or on the metro. The spark in everyone’s eyes encouraged me to live actively and to drink in the life around me.


A country full of life and people

Living in India is a unique experience no matter how much you think you have traveled before. I left the country with a little piece of me behind and a little piece of it in me, shaping my identity in a new way. She was a great teacher who taught me many invaluable lessons on how to live. Time may pass but the stories, lessons, and memories will stay with me forever. Onto the next adventure.


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About Bill Cao

I am a rising sophomore pursuing a dual degree in Management and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. I am interested in social entrepreneurship and love reading, traveling, exploring.