Hampi, New Friends & Discussions on Politics

One of the most valuable things that has come from this internship has been the opportunity to meet new people. One of my favorite weekends in India will always be the weekend I went to Hampi. Hampi is an area near Bangalore famous for its ancient ruins. This was to be my first time traveling out of Bangalore completely alone, I was excited and didn’t know what to expect. What I assumed would be a weekend going solo exploring Hampi, turned into a weekend filled with discussions on global politics with people close to my age.

For the weekend I had rented out a room at an airbnb that was close to all the sights. The airbnb had two rooms. Upon arriving my host told me that another guy from Bangalore would be arriving shortly to take up the second room in the house. When I heard this I didn’t think much of it. If he was coming alone he probably wanted to have some solo time during the weekend. He happened to be eating breakfast at the same place I went to and our host introduced us. After a few minutes we decided that it would be great if we visited the ruins together. His name was Sandesh. At the time, I was extremely satisfied that I had made one new friend that weekend. Later in the day when we got lunch it was a pure coincidence that there happened to be friends that Sandesh had made on the bus ride from Bangalore to Hampi. I was immediately introduced and quickly felt as if I were part of the group. Everyone in the group aside from myself were in there early twenties involved in their own start up companies in Bangalore. Bangalore is commonly referenced as the silicon valley of India. There is a heavy emphasis in IT here and countless start ups. I was finally starting to see truth to that label.

It was really great that I was able to meet people close to my age that grew up in an entirely different culture. I wanted to see where our perspectives converged and diverged. I wanted to know what their views of America were, if they had any. I wanted to know how life in university differed between America and India. After hours of long discussion at lunch all those questions were answered.

During the long discussion the topic turned to American politics. Everyone at the table was very informed on what the political situation in the states was. They knew of the policy points that major candidates presented and they knew of the repercussions that would occur depending on which candidate would eventually be elected. The way they were so informed on American politics made me think of the imbalance that their American counterparts have on Indian politics. Before learning that I got the Shahi internship and coming to India I knew very little of Indian politics. The most recent article I can recall reading on Indian politics before the internship started was on the unlikely friendship between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama. Yet here at the table were a handful of twenty something year olds making connections in American Politics that I hadn’t ever considered before.

We need to step it up. Being willfully ignorant of global affairs encourages an American Centric view of the world. On my first day in India when I looked at the front page of daily paper, plastered on it was a large picture of Trump. While there are others in the world thinking about how our votes this upcoming November will affect our lives I feel as if we make little effort to understand the political arenas of different countries. Honestly, I felt disappointed in myself because whereas the friends that I had made that weekend has so much to contribute to a discussion on American politics, if the discussion had switched to Indian politics I would’ve been a fish out of water. Since that weekend, I’ve made an effort to read more articles that discuss growing trends in India that will have huge impacts on the global stage. I’ve always prioritized opportunities that allow me to be exposed to new perspectives. I think that lately however I’ve wrongly acted as if those with the diverging perspective have the burden of teaching me this new outlook. This summer in India has taught me that in order to effectively contribute to the exchange of ideas I need to be proactive and take measures that educate me on perspectives that I may encounter throughout different experiences in my life. We live in an age where information has been more accessible than ever, it easier now than ever to inform ourselves.

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About Alexi Chacon

Class of 2019, majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Intern at Shahi Exports in Bangalore, India in summer 2016.