After our very first full day in India, I stepped out of my hostel room that I shared with my friend Anh. The air smelled of grass and quite strongly of Indian takeaway food that was delivered to some of the students. I turned to the right of our room, from where I could look down on a little patch of grass that was in the middle of the hostel.
I was meeting a few of the BU students down there to relax and enjoy the cooled night air in the common area. I spotted one of the girls from the College here in India who welcomed us in Pune the day before.
Walking down I waved at her and asked her to join us. The other students from BU came down shortly after and joined the two of us on the dusty stairs.
We were a group that can only be described as truly multicultural, which represented cultures from all around the world: Kenya, Vietnam, Nigeria, Germany and of course India.
Shortly after, we were joined by two other Indian girls and two adorable puppies, which chased each other across the open space. Starting our conversation about our hometowns and our experiences in high school and university, I caught a glimpse of so many different cultures within one conversation.
What felt like five minutes later, I checked the time and it turned out to be after midnight. We had been talking for more than two hours about anything and everything, one topic lead to another. While talking about contemporary and personal experiences of race, gender inequality and religion, what stood out to me the most was that even though we came from very different backgrounds, we agreed on many issues and were actually very similar in many aspects.
Religion turned out to be one of the most multifaceted topics in our discussions and showed how very individual each and every one of our relationship with our god(s) is but also how very alike and collective the experience of spirituality can be. We also explored how easy it can and should be for different religions to coexist peacefully within one group, and more importantly, within such a large country as India.
After only two days and one very special and long conversation, my first impression is: India is diversity, India is openness and acceptance, India is spirituality in all its shapes and forms.