“How was your stay in India?” asks the lady at the Virgin Atlantic ticket counter at the Delhi airport on Thursday. I find this question to be humorous considering the fact that Alice and I just spent the last 20 minutes trying to get in the airport after being turned down by various security guards for not already having our printed tickets (isn’t that what the ticket counter inside the airport is for?) *Note to travelers from Delhi airport: always have a printed copy of your flight confirmation.* After a brief panic episode of “oh my God, I am not able to leave this country”, Alice and I were on the plane to London facing another fear: turbulence. The moral of the story was that India wasn’t letting go of us easily (until the bitter end)!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for two months of my life back or anything like that. My true feelings are that India was a necessary pilgrimage for me. My main goals for my summer were to step outside of my comfort zone (i.e. Western Europe and Latin America) and observe how Seva Mandir, a development NGO with a capabilities focus, implements its programs. I achieved both of these goals; I concluded that Latin America (and Honduras) really IS the place for me, and my pursuit of development interventions with a capabilities focus was reinforced. I was also able to translate classroom skills (qualitative and quantitative methods and development theories) into current development projects- double yea for the Steinhardt International Education program and my resume! Looking back on my experience in India I have a sense of fulfillment as well as an acknowledgement of its role in the formation of my future career decisions. However, I won’t be moving to India anytime soon and a return trip requires several conditions: I don’t travel without my fiancé/husband and/or brother- a man that I can be with 24/7; it’s not during the hottest time of year (May-July).
I strongly suggest a stint in India to anyone considering entering the field of international development. While India is described as a developing country, I believe this only refers to a certain population/sector. The “developing” image ignores the realities of many Indians. I have never truly observed chronic poverty on such a large scale before. The subcontinent is home to the largest population concentration, which may be why its effects are witnessed everywhere and on a daily basis. Even though it is the largest democracy in the world, India continues to suffer from “social handicaps”, a term coined by the economist Amartya Sen. Development efforts pursued by both outsiders and Indians themselves continue to face the challenge of providing relevant interventions given India’s particular dynamics. While I do not feel that I have a place in the development of India, I do feel like I would have it elsewhere (perhaps back in Honduras).
In closing, it’s been a memorable summer, but for now I’m content with being back in NYC. Namaste!