Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From Indiana to India

I’m not even quite sure where to begin. I’ve been here 3 days now, but we have seen and experienced so much already that I feel like I’ve been here a month…in a very good way. India is amazing, and amazingly different from any place I’ve ever been before. Even though our class spent weeks prepping and learning about the country and culture, I don’t think anything could have fully prepared us…we are truly in experiential learning mode, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Like many others, my first real experience in India began with a cab ride. At first glance, the roads appeared to be filled with complete chaos. Cars, buses, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, horse-drawn carts, camel-drawn carts, bikes, motorcycles, people, and cows were everywhere, moving in all directions. Honking filled the air, the number of lanes changed in an instant, the few traffic lights we encountered were optional at best, people crossed the street even though there didn’t appear to be a single break in traffic, and cars switched lanes with no more than a few inches of clearance. Yes, it would have been very easy to slap a “chaotic” label on India and never look deeper. Luckily, Professor Garcia prepared us to embrace self-awareness, let go of the things we thought we knew, and embrace the fact that our way of thinking simply could not be applied to such a drastically different culture. As I stared out the window, with a large bus passing just a couple inches from my nose, I realized four things. First, I didn’t feel nervous. Second, I didn’t see a single fender-bender. Third, even though the roads were more packed with cars, animals, and people than I thought possible, traffic continued to move forward at a fairly even pace. And fourth, the constant honking wasn’t the angry New York or DC style honking I was used to – people were communicating with one another! It was a beautiful thing to watch. Everything was so fluid and responsive, as it must be when so much diversity fills a single street.

Before we left for India, Professor Garcia told us that we must be flexible, and within my first few moments of being in this new country, the word took on a whole new meaning for me. I realized that even American “flexible” was different from India “flexible”. For this week, I am a stranger in a strange land, where even the little things, like sleeping and using a hairdryer, are a challenge. But being pushed outside my comfort zone has not come without its rewards. From the delicious food to the amazingly kind people to the breathtaking sites, our first three days have been filled with rich, memorable experiences. I am overwhelmingly grateful to be here, to be experiencing this place with my fellow classmates, and to be learning simultaneously from both our Kelley and IIM Lucknow faculty and staff. It is 4am for me right now (like I said, even sleeping is a challenge), and I am anxiously waiting to see what this next day holds for us. It will be adventure, without a doubt!

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