Rachel in India

Rachel, a 2006 SMU graduate in History and Indian Studies, is working on her PhD in South Asian History at Boston College. This summer she’s returning to Pune, India, through the American Institute for Indian Studies for the second summer of a language intensive in Marathi.

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From Booming Metropolis to Peaceful Village

For my midterm break I went to Mumbai, or shall we say Bombay. I really do believe that there is no city in the world like Bombay.

Seven islands were joined together to create what we now know as Mumbai, India’s most-populated city. While I was only a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Pune, it is really worlds apart. Bombay is steeped in diversity: diversity of language, diversity of religion, and diversity of tradition.

While my Marathi certainly made Bombay slang (usually a combination of Hindi, Marathi and English) easier to understand, it really is a language unto its own.

Mumbai is an overcrowded city with unbearable humidity, but somehow there is something incredibly charming about Bombay and its people. There is nothing like walking along the Arabian sea or exploring churches built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. There’s nothing like being in a city that’s always alive and really never sleeps. There’s nothing like being surrounded by such a vast array of people that despite their diverse backgrounds find unity in the sense of being Bombayites or
Mumbaikars. There’s nothing like being in the booming metropolis of Bombay.

rachel-DSC03996-sm.jpgBut the truth is that the majority of Indians still live in villages and depend on agriculture to sustain themselves. The following weekend I spent in Ralegan Siddhi on a day trip for my Marathi language class. This was a village that in the 1970s was plagued with famine and alcoholism, but has made a total turnaround that started with a cooperative to rebuild the village mandir (temple) and resulted in a change in lifestyle from temperance to family planning.

rachel-DSC04003-sm.jpg Now Ralegan Siddhi exports its milk and other agricultural products to surrounding villages and all of its people have plenty of food to eat. There is now a school in the village that educates children up to the 10th standard, and students come from surrounding villages to go to this school.

We walked through the village and through the fields to talk with the villagers and see how the water tank has been built to prevent drought. Walking through this village, breathing in fresh air after months of breathing in pure exhaust, and meeting people whose lives are so different than my own reminded me again of the diversity of the subcontinent.

From a booming metropolis to a peaceful village, this is the India that I have grown to love.

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