Tomorrow I leave for a once-in a lifetime trip. I will be traveling with 17 fellow McGillians, who may be a few decades my senior, to India and Nepal. While I love to travel and consider myself a tad adventurous, I never thought I would get to India before my 30th birthday.
To be entirely honest, it’s a country that has always intimidated me, for no particular reason, but was somewhere I always thought “maybe one day I’ll get there”. India has always fascinated me – while studying International Development at McGill I took two anthropology courses which focused primarily on India – learned about the caste system and the rural north one week, then the following week had a PhD student come and give an intriguing lecture on the impact of call centers in southern Kerala.
Aside from my two courses at McGill, I don’t know a lot about India – one of my all-time favorite books is A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry, which was an eye-opening read and set the momentum for me to read a slew of novels set in India or by Indian authors, but this is the extent of my “expertise”. To prepare for this trip I re-watched the 1982 Oscar Award winning Gandhi, read a brief history on the country, and most importantly, watched the 2011 movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” – where a group of senior citizens travel to India – a glimpse into my future I’d say.
I am filled with excitement to learn more about the 7th largest country in the world, and the 2nd most populated. One thing I have heard over and over again about India is there’s so much wealth there, but so so much poverty – reflected this week in two articles I read. One was titled “Canada needs India as security, trade ally” discussing our Prime Minister’s visit, for reasons of “geopolitical global security”. The other was “India ‘whistleblowers’ to out public urinators” discussing the 600 million people who are without toilets and urinate on the streets. While this article had a positive spin – the Jhunjhunu district officials are trying to curb this behavior and are giving money to people to build toilets – it was still an interesting contrast.
I’ve realized I haven’t even mentioned Nepal here, simply because I know even less about it than I do about India! I will be sure to elaborate in my subsequent blogs.
Now, off to pack and eat some steak.