Colourful, diverse, loud and impressive
Several people asked, "India? isn't that dangerous? Why do you want to go there?" Some of our family members or friends may have been shocked by our travel plans to India, but we did not care, because we recognised the BayIND Summer School as a great opportunity. As students of various disciplines, enrolled at Bavarian universities, we travelled to India in September to get a unique glimpse. By Sofie Flurschütz
Bangalore - Numerous people meander through alleys, hundreds of small shops and salesmen call for attention, cars and motorbikes honk, monkeys climb on rooftops, street dogs sniff trash and every now and then, a cow blocks the way. On the way from the airport to the accommodation in Bangalore, everywhere we look, we discover something new. "I would describe Bangalore as wild, it did not seem at all like a big city, and it was not as shocking as I expected it to be, it was exciting," says Nicole, describing her first impressions. In the hostel room, we take our backpacks off our shoulders, put the suitcases in the corner, unbutton our jackets, and take a deep breath. For each of us, it is the first time in India.
Patient, interested and creative
"Awaken the artist in you," Jose Jacob from the BayIND office in Bangalore motivates us on the first day of the program. A little later, we paint blue and yellow, green and red lines and figures on the wall. We create awareness for important topics like plastic waste with Indian street artists. The name of this project is "Paint for a cause". After a few hours, five redesigned walls are created - each with a message. The walls are a good medium for delivering messages because everyone sees them. It is rainy season in South India, so we are forced to take a break and under the roof of a parking lot we started talking. It’s interesting why each of us has applied at the BayIND Summer School and what our travel experiences so far are.
Visit to the Consulate General
"I am happy, I am healthy, I am peaceful" we repeat the next morning with the Indian Yoga teacher. We sit cross-legged on a thin, blue mat, concentrating. Our eyelids close, our muscles relax. We follow the instructions of the yogi. For many of us, it is not the first yoga experience. Annika can stay in the bridge position for several minutes, Sebastian does the sun salutation in the exact sequence and Rowena can form the warrior position perfectly. "I liked that the yoga teacher described and explained the asanas in detail, so he showed us not only the athletic but also the spiritual aspects of yoga," says Evelyn. "For me, yoga means to calm down and just turn my head off," says Nicole. For breakfast, we sip black tea, eat dosa, a savoury pancake or idli, a lentil rice cake, with a spicy sauce called sambar. Apart from that, we also have toast and jam. After eating, we climb into the bus in business clothes. The vehicle rattles down the road, motorcycles and yellow-green tuk-tuks jostle past. We observe a large number of people, almost everyone owns a smartphone. The organiser, Elisabeth Vögele explains that Bangalore, a city with more than eleven million inhabitants and the centre of the Indian high-tech industry, has grown, but the infrastructure remains almost unchanged. At the Consulate General, we learn more about the work of delegates and the start-up network BIGSUN, Bangalore Indo-German Start-up Network. It was established by the German Consulate and the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce to support cooperation between Indian start-ups and German companies.
Lectures and the desire to learn
Our eyes are focused ahead of us, making a note of what is being said. In addition to company visits, lectures help us to get to know the country and its people. Among other things, we attend a lecture on women's rights, which was organised in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in India. "We fight, but we fight arm in arm," says Indian activist Ruth Manorama during her speech on the situation of women in India. We are inspired because Ruth is motivating and strong. Another speaker is SPIEGEL correspondent Laura Höflinger. From her, we learn that many Indians use WhatsApp and Facebook as the main source of news. Fake news is, therefore, a big problem, because too many Indians believe in the partially manipulated video material, which is often spread through social networks. We are also amazed by our visit to Infosys, a global IT company.
Different countries, different manners
For lunch, an Indian waiter serves rice with various curries and bread on a banana leaf - a typical meal. We try everything, after all, the food is very different than at home. "I have never eaten so spicy," Nicole says, adding, "Before, I was really scared of eating, thinking I could only eat dry rice." Only a few of us have mastered eating with our hands as the Indians do. It takes practice. Many prefer the usual cutlery to eat curry and rice. After we are full, we look for the toilet and find a squat toilet and water buckets next to it for cleaning by hand. In the evening we want to buy spices such as cinnamon, pepper and turmeric as a souvenir. "No problem," says the head-shaking Indian in the shop and immediately starts rushing. "Indians are polite and hospitable," says Anna.
Singing in a saree
"99 Kriegsminister, Streichholz und Benzinkanister, hielten sich für schlaue Leute, witterten schon fette Beute" together we sing line after line of Nena's song 99 Balloons. At the end of the song, we let go of the balloons and the audience cheers. It is the farewell event at St. Joseph's Institute of Management in Bangalore. We have borrowed traditional clothing from the Indian students of St. Joseph's Institute of Management and dance a German folk dance while wearing it. All the girls wear a meter-long, colourful sari, a great feeling. An Indian girl puts a red dot, the so-called Bindi, on our forehead. It is the sign of married women, but sometimes also worn only as an accessory. After the event, we go outside to support different cooking teams and learn more about Indian cuisine. "The Indian students showed us their culture and always looked after us," says Amina.
Kerala, the new Goa
Waves splash against the ship "Mayooram", lifebuoys hang next to the control board and a nice Indian carries coconuts on a tray - a welcome drink for us on board. In Kochi, we explore the backwaters, an intricate waterway network in the south Indian state of Kerala. The boat trip is a good opportunity to dangle our feet from the ship's wall and sit talking. We also explore the area by bicycle. We pass many big lakes and lagoons, rivers and long canals. Countless Indians are standing in front of their houses as if someone had called everyone and said that a bunch of Germans will pass by right now. It’s fun to walk through alleys and over bridges, on country lanes and along the road. We observe the beautiful landscape and as soon as we are lost, Indians show us the way. For many of us, it is the highlight of the summer school. After visiting companies such as L&T, Bio-lutions, WeWorks and Infosys, visiting a Vishnu temple in Mysore and lectures on the Indian economy, we reached the end of the Summer School in Kochi.
Time to say goodbye
The pool water shimmers, balloons float around the long table where we sit in the candlelight. After delicious naan bread, paneer and vanilla ice cream, the farewells and thoughts about the Summer School and India pour out of each participant. "For me, India is colourful, diverse, loud and impressive," Nicole emphasises at the farewell dinner and adds, "The trip to India was truly unique and will be remembered for a lifetime - as an individual tourist, I certainly would not have had the chance to experience such an inside view." Anna is looking forward to the quiet and silent traffic in Germany. Eva is grateful for the great experiences. Philipp could not have imagined a better group to explore south India with. Even Pia will miss the team and for her, it will be a strange feeling not to be surrounded by 20 others around the clock. For David, these were special circumstances: "A few weeks ago, I did not know I was attending the summer school, when I got the confirmation, I cancelled my plans and booked a flight to India, I do not regret it!", says David, who came spontaneously as a participant and is very happy about his decision. Ann-Kristin also finds great words to sum up what she has experienced: "Whether it's getting soaking wet or extremely sweaty on the Spice Farm, we've overcome everything together."