TRAVEL DIARY: India – My Trip to the Subcontinent

Posted on June 7, 2012 by


BY MARTIN DICKENS.

In February 2012, I had the opportunity to visit India touring the western side of the country from Delhi to Goa. Before visiting the country, I had a very limited knowledge of what India had to offer with my interest in the oriental country being sparked mainly through an undergraduate subject I studied in 2010. Looking back on the trip, it is hard to realise what impact this experience would truly have on my perceptions of humanity and particularly, developed and developing countries. This visit truly represents the beginning of a story that is and potentially will never finish.

Landing in Delhi Airport on February 4 can only be described as daunting, frustrating and emotionally tolling on someone that has had very little experience of overseas cultures. Stepping out of the airport and onto Delhi soil brought back images that I had seen on television programs in Australia on the Middle East. The dusty, dry, arid landscapes outside the airport confronted me and my travelling partner Alicia as we made our way to the taxi rank amidst a sea of drivers pursuing me for my business. I use the singular word “me” as India very much remains a society that is segregated on the basis of gender and sex. We would later discover that this was a prevalent reality that would confront us on our many stops throughout cities and the countryside.

Whilst only making a brief stop in Delhi, our journey continued onto the cities of Agra, Jaipur and Pushkar where we were enticed with a number of spicy foods, elaborate buildings and a number of foreign visitors. Accompanying Alicia and I on this journey were eight other members who formed our tour group coming from countries including Norway and England. These tour members made our trip the most wonderful experience, with many of us becoming lifelong friends.  A particularly fond memory that I have of the visit was in Pushkar where we not only engaged in intense marketing with the local store holders to buy their goods, but also had the opportunity to visit the Holy Lake, a pilgrimage site for Hindus across India.

Whilst locally produced goods were sold across all destinations of India, what I found personally interesting yet confronting was the extreme poverty which ordinary citizens of the public must deal with on a daily basis. A lack of clean water and fresh foods has inflicted a number of physical ailments on individuals of the general public, with many not having the necessary funds to seek medical attention. It is this reality which makes the divide between developed and developing countries so prevalent, particularly to the alien Western tourist.

After riding on cramped buses and trains across India, the trip finally arrived at our final destinations of Mumbai and Goa. Contrasting with previous destinations, Mumbai and Goa featured a number of relics that represent a time when European colonisation imposed itself on native Indian life. Whilst Mumbai’s architecture very much reflected the work and settlement of the English in the 18th and 19th Centuries, it was in Goa where the settlement of the Portuguese highlighted the extent of importance that India had in terms of economic trade. In Old Goa particularly, it was the immense number of Catholic Churches and missionaries that helped explain the imposition that religion and culture had on the lives of native Indians. Confronting these hardships along with sick and desperate children that populate the streets of India became tolling on both a level that was both mental and emotional. The corruption of government and the lack of available social support services have meant that many of the children and agricultural populations continue to live without the basic necessities of water and electricity. Regardless of many individuals not knowing an alternative way of life, the lack of financial support and means leaves many to be caught in a perpetual cycle of poverty that they are unlikely to escape.

Personally however, visiting small local schools and community centres has made me realise a core mission that I now have in life. Growing up in Western Society, we are raised to take education for granted. In my future role as an educator and with the skills I have learnt through university study, it is my goal to later revisit these communities and assist them in developing a lifestyle that is both sustainable and more equal to the experiences that other children have in developed countries. I was especially moved by meeting and interacting with children in a small state school in Ranakpur, a village just north of Mumbai. Whilst sending these children a number of learning materials such as books and notepads from Goa, I hope to continue my relationship with the school and potentially revisit those teachers and elders in the community. Their kindness and generosity was life changing for me and I only hope that one day I return to take the mountainous walk and visit those children in a capacity that empowers me to help them on a more profound level.

Overall, India presented as a country that offered an exciting range of foods and lifestyle experiences. Whilst many Western tourists would find the country potentially confronting and hostile, beneath everything is a spirit of connectivity and hope that fulfils everyone who experiences Indian life. I thank everyone I met on this trip for making it such a wonderful and life changing trip. Certainly, India has helped guide my future journey in life and I only hope that one day I can return the favour and contribute back to the small-scale community life that permeates the country.

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Martin Dickens is a third year Bachelor of Arts student studying at La Trobe University’s Albury Wodonga Campus. He is currently a member of the student-run People’s Action Club (PAC), is a founding member of the Albury-Wodonga chapter of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), and holds a strong interest in both Australian politics and international affairs.  He has served as an acting delegate for the United Nations Regional Youth Summits and was recently awarded the Deans Prize First Year for the most outstanding student in the Bachelor of Arts.  Martin is also interested in education policy and regional development in terms of infrastructure and service delivery.

The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.

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