It’s now been 2 weeks since I’ve left Delhi, and I’ve pushed this blog post off for far too long because, honestly, I don’t know how to summarize my 9 weeks in India properly.
My trip was a lot of different things. It was inspiring. I worked for a company full of hard-working, passionate people, united to remedy India’s skills gap at scale. It was interesting. From learning how to cross busy streets with no regulations to learning about HR agencies and job portals at work, there was always something new to learn. It was unsettling. Seeing people and children living in abject poverty while sitting in an air-conditioned Uber on our way to a beautiful, South Delhi flat (our AirbNb) in an affluent neighborhood was disturbing and uncomfortable. Nothing but the “lottery of birth” determined our positions. Knowing that I couldn’t make a meaningful difference made it worse–how far would my purchase of a book from a street vendor (and I mean “street vendor” literally–in India, it is common to see vendors walk through multiple lanes of traffic to sell their items) go? But it was also heart-warming. Indian cultural practices around gratitude, family, and sharing, were particularly refreshing. In India, family bonds are powerful; adults often live with their parents and take care of their parents as they age, just as their parents took care of them when they were younger. And sharing, always openly and lovingly, seemed to be the standard: Leap employees, family members, and complete strangers never seemed to jump at the opportunity to share their food or knowledge with me. And it was fun. Trips to other cities, eating delicious foods, market shopping sprees, cutting mangoes in the middle of the night, joking around in the office, rickshaw rides, coming up with a talent show performance for the office with Tashweena, 8:30 AM Bollywood dance classes, and the family reunions are just a few of the memories I will cherish forever.
And India changed me in a lot of different ways too. My Hindi drastically improved (Tashweena, a Hindi master, can attest to this). I have become much more conscious of my carbon footprint: breathing Delhi smog, seeing trash on the streets, and using switches on every outlet (why doesn’t America do this!?!?) makes you evaluate your consumption patterns and their very real effects even more closely. I have become stronger and more resilient in uncomfortable and uncertain situations. By the last week, I ran down the street in the pouring rain, found an empty rickshaw (after dramatically yelling and waving at multiple full rickshaws), spoke to the driver in Hindi about getting back to the Air BnB (even though I have 0 sense of direction and wasn’t completely sure of how to get there), showered, changed, and got back to work in 30 minutes. Pre-India me would never be able to do this, or even be able to stay calm in a situation like this.
My experience in India is difficult to explain, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Thank you India, CASI, and Leap for this incredible experience.