I just spent the summer in Araku, loudly talking to the internet modem blaming it instead of the weather for the internet cuts, eating chicken 24/7 with tomatoes, listening to the punctual chant of Muslim communities, showering without a shower but with a bucket and mug and thus having difficulties to properly rinse my hair, wearing kurtis, pants and dupatas to work, and walking along unpaved roads.
Some may choose to avoid this rural environment, but I purposefully chose it with the aim to learn about it. And I did.
I drank liters of delicious, just-made chai tea while conducting interviews with over 70 farmers without knowing Telugu, and finished a report on sociological and economical situations in tribal farmers in the Araku and Dumbriguda mandals (despite the internet) that will help Naandi look for support for their future sustainable projects. I talked with and learned from an incredible tribal community that still keeps and values their traditions and customs, showed this community a little bit of my part of the world, surprised at the work organization and connection to the land that they have, and got to know about government actions for these disadvantaged individuals. I learned about Naandi’s template of development through the sale of the organic coffee grown by these tribal farmers in gourmet shops in France, and about fruit trees that work as livelihoods providers and CO2 reducers. I mentored and advised graduate students seeking to improve their soft skills, and motivated young girls to fight for gender equality and be the drivers of changer in India. So summer was about learning how to work effectively in a team, sharing knowledge and experiences, learning how sustainability is taking shape in India and most importantly, contributing to it, which allowed me to grow professionally.
But I also grew personally. I spend my summer disentangling the knot that India is, understanding its contrasts and its conflicts, admiring its potential and limits, realizing its beauty and ugliness, and loving it anyways. It was about living Indian culture and comparing it with my own, and through this, consolidating my identity. It was about trying to rationalize Indian customs, and finally giving up and just enjoy them.
It was a challenging internship and I feel proud to finish it successfully. I feel sad for the friends I left behind, but excited to see what Naandi will do next to improve India’s youth and communities, and secretly proud to know that I was part of that advancement.
It was quite a great summer, and I am eternally grateful to those unknown but willing hands that sent me in this path of discovery and self-improvement.