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An intern in India: reality bites

I cannot forget the screech of pain which imploded from the poor soul sleeping on the crummy floors of the colorful hustle-bustle platform of ‘Jaipur Junction Railway Station’ – the man screamed in agony as I, accidentally, stepped on his thin & tiny foot in my pursuit to catch the train to my next terminus.

I didn’t apologize. I didn’t look back. The train wasn’t stationary any more. I had no money, no credit on my cell, and I was sharing this ‘premium’/illicit one ‘family-ticket’ which my friends were holding onto, already boarded inside. It seemed as if I was starring in my own Indiana-Jones-inspired-flick; only this time it was real! I was the protagonist-hero gallivanting in a fully-rendered 3D adventure. My destination: India.

And what a destined destination it was! But not one Bollywood movie which I’d seen prior to my Indian travels had managed to instill the catharsis which I was about to experience once I landed from my almost-30-hour-journey; from Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean, transit to Egypt, transit to Saudi Arabia, and the final plane to a country on the other side of the globe.

I worked in school named Bal Kalyan, as part of my 6 week internship, allocated in central India in a city named Pune. My vocabulary is definitely not rich enough to describe the horrifying scenarios which enveloped right in front of my eyes in this institution. The school was targeted for the physically and mentally disabled children; enough said. My little contribution in making those kids smile made me stronger and weaker, sensitive and thick-skinned, and happy and sad at the same time. Saying goodbye to them was probably tougher than catching that train.

We used trains for most of our travels and I must say they are the toughest thing to sleep in; not because they’re bumpy, or stuffy, or smelly, or loud, but because the beautiful, vivid and lively pictures which monopolize every corner of this country are too hard to ignore.

Agra, the land of the wonderful Taj Mahal; Mumbai, the hybrid multicultural rich city, known for its history and for the partying which it offers; capital city Delhi, so famous for its never-ending & super-cheap markets; Jaipur, habitat of myriads of elephants; Udaipur, surrounded by immaculate rivers with temples built upon the same waters; Goa, an exotic Ibiza encircled with sensational beaches and wildlife leisure activities. And the rest of India…is on my to-do list for my next visit.

On a different note, not all of the India I experienced was as polished as the adjectives above sound. For instance, riding every day on a 3-wheeled shaky rickshaw meant that you could look out one window and see a plump lady and her three children on one motorcycle (sometimes, even worse cases), and you’d look out another window and see a cow and a camel walking alongside each other, oblivious of the ridiculously crazy and dangerous traffic around them.

The toughest thing I faced every day was facing the beggars; they would come up to me with pleading eyes, touching my shirt and pointing their skeleton fingers to their mouths.

India has a bipolar nature: there is the real good, the real bad, the really beautiful, the really ugly. Travelling there means that you are in the in-between. Seeing the real India is seeing how much you are willing to truly embrace every experience which comes your way. I abided by this philosophy, set no expectations, and I have lived the best two months of my life.

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