Out of the ten of us I am the only one who is fortunate enough to be visiting India for the second time in my life. A little under two years ago I was here working for an Indian charity engaging in ’employability training’ workshops in universities across the country, in Shimla (North), Bhubaneswar (East), and Bangalore (South), but nowhere in the West – until now.
My most memorable first impressions of India then were: a) the heat, b) the spice, c) the diarrhoea, and d) the inequality. Whilst a,b,c remain as key second impressions though, the inequality is somewhat different to what I experienced elsewhere, at least within the university…
I suppose I should firstly elaborate on what I mean when I say that inequality was one of my first impressions. I mean that India is incredibly hierarchical, in terms of race, gender and age especially. Travelling last time with a black Ugandan friend, I found we were both treated very differently: I was treated with far more respect, and it seemed in India almost as if the lighter your skin is the more important you are.
In terms of gender, I found the male students to be far more confident and talkative then the female students. I often used to refer to a lot of the girls I met as being like penguins – they would huddle together and seem very nervous to engage in what were very dynamic activities. In terms of age, I found a striking gap in authority between the students and their professors. The professor would talk, and the students would listen and take notes. Simple as that.
At the Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts though, things are quite different. There doesn’t seem to be a race issue in this institution – there is a very broad range and everybody appears to get on with each other very well.
Perhaps the biggest difference is how the girls act here. Confidence is clearly not an issue. The majority of girls I have spoken to are firstly very enthusiastic to talk, and also seem very opposite to the traditional ideology of being in many ways inferior to men.
It is difficult to imagine any of the girls I’ve met being ordered what to do against their will by a man. Also the way of learning here is different. The students are encouraged to talk by their professors, and they seem to be on very level terms with each other.
India is developing first and is tipped be a big world economic player in the future – almost a fifth of the worlds population live here. The early observations of equality at the Symbiosis is encouraging and certainly necessary for the country to reach its potential.