Chaotic and vibrant, overwhelming and intoxicating, India is unlike any other country I’ve been to. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I dislike it, sometimes I’m awed by it, sometimes I’m frustrated with it…never have I ever experienced such varied emotions in a new place as I have here during this week in the Motherland.
This is not actually my first time in India; growing up, I came here almost every year to visit extended family in Calcutta. The last time I was here was a mere 7 months ago, right after I left New York. But on every prior visit, I have always been surrounded by relatives, transported around in a family car, completely unaware of my surroundings and dependent on those around me. My conservative and protective extended family never saw the need to let me go out and explore my home country. And as a result, I never really connected with or understood India.
Then, a few months back, while I was in Hawaii, I got a job with an organization in Bangalore called Leave Ur Mark (LUM), a social enterprise that caters to foreign interns who want to experience living and working in India. My role would be that of a Coordinator, someone who takes care of the interns, finds placements for them, plans cultural activities and weekend trips and basically ensures that they have an enjoyable experience.
I had never been to Bangalore before but was intrigued by the company and the opportunity it presented for me to go back to my roots and discover India independently. The job sounded ideal – finding placements for interns meant I would be networking with local non-profits and businesses; taking them on cultural excursions around Bangalore and the rest of India meant that I would get to see more of the country myself. The offer came at a time when I was questioning my identity and where I belonged. Here was my chance to try out life in the one country I actually held citizenship to and the start date coincided perfectly with the end of my Thailand internship. What more could I have asked for? I took the job.
Now, three months later, here I am, a week into life in Bangalore. This first week has had its ups and downs, things I’ve gotten excited about, things I’ve freaked out about. This job is more challenging and demanding than the one in Thailand, especially right now in the beginning, when I’m playing catch up…It’s hard to feel in control and come across as a Coordinator when I actually don’t know anything myself. Right now I still am just as much a foreigner as the interns are and it will take some time for me to get the hang of things. But this job is forcing me to dive into life here and I’m grateful for that.
Our accommodation, where I’m staying with the interns, is really nice and located close to the center of town. I mostly spent this week exploring the neighborhoods, checking out some cool cultural activities and nightlife, and absorbing as much information about India as I could.
I’m really interested to see how I will feel about India and the job a few months in. My internship here lasts for five months, which should give me plenty of time to get to know the country. It’s exciting, having the freedom to do things by myself here, and the more I discover, the more I’m starting to enjoy it. Above all, I know this is going to be a great learning experience for me no matter what, and that in itself is enough for me to stick around 🙂