The journey to Amity

I flew out from London Heathrow on 23/08/2019 at 21:30pm. I would arrive the following day in New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi international Airport 10:40am local time. Being on an overnight economy seat long-haul flight was not an enjoyable experience. I tried to get some sleep in, but I just couldn’t manage it with the lack of legroom and the fact that I kept getting a dry mouth started to irritate me. However, once we had landed I was in a better mood. I had cleared the Border controls and customs very quickly and met the student buddies assigned to me as soon as I stepped out of arrivals. The drive to Amity University’s campus was about 45 minutes and being in an air conditioned airport terminal and car gave me the illusion that the heat was not that unbearable.

First impressions

As we pulled up to the Amity campus, I started to notice that security was very tight. Big walls around the campus with barbed wire running along the top and security checks at the entry points, you could have easily mistaken the campus for a military base. However, once inside things where different. The campus was huge, so big in fact that it even had its own helipad. The sheer size of the campus seemed to reflect the size of India as a country.

We stayed in the accommodation that Amity had provided us with and to be honest it was pretty good. I had to share with a flat with two students from Ulster university in Ireland, whom I became really good friends with. On campus we had a Subway, Dominoes and WH smith. Once I had left my luggage in my room and got settled in we went for lunch at a restaurant on campus called Wall Street. They served Indian cuisine and sometimes they would add Chinese food into the mix. Along the wall of the restaurant they had pictures of famous businessmen such as: Warren Buffet, Phil Knight, Bill Gates and Ratan Tata. Throughout my time in India I started to notice that the Tata group had a massive presence in the country and that many Indian students had an entrepreneurial attitude.

First excursion

The following day after everyone had arrived the buddies had decided to take us on a trip to Connaught Place or ‘CP’ as the buddies referred to it. This part of Delhi was buzzing with business. Its architectural design is from the colonial time of British rule. Amongst all the shopping and window shopping that we did as a group the buddies decided to take us to a restaurant. It was called Rajasthali and we tried Thali’s which is the traditional way in which Indian food is served. You are served a large tray with many smaller pots of different food items. My one had rice, Dhaal, Paneer curry, salad, ice cream and Gulub Jummum. The interesting thing was that in India you don’t get served a three course meal, everything is served to you at once and you can eat in whatever order you want to, I thought that this was brilliant and coupled with the fact that Indians eat with their hands gave me a sense of freedom that I had never had before. Once we had finished eating we went to visit India Gate. A memorial for the Indians who died whilst serving the British Indian Army between 1914-1921. Whilst roaming around the park that India gate was located in, many of the locals seemed more interested in us than in the monument itself.

First week

During the first week of our programme we had been invited to attend lectures. Weirdly, I was up for having a few early morning lectures as I had been on a placement year and I thought I could use these lectures as a way of adjusting my mind back to academic study. The lectures varied across a broad range of topics and they would always relate back to Indian culture, which made them more interesting. I was able to gain an in depth knowledge on how Indian culture operates and I would make comparisons to my own culture, to understand what similarities/ differences we had. One lecture that I found very helpful was the introduction to yoga one. The lecturer and his assistant showed us some useful exercises that could be done in your seat. These exercises were useful for stretching out your back and neck, but most importantly the breathing exercises would help you to maintain focus.

The first week was packed with activities for us. We visited the Indian houses of parliament, a magnificent building that reflected the history of India and the British influence that still remains to this day. They have a House of Lords (Rajya Sabha) and a House of Commons (Lok Sabha). The tour around the houses of parliament was relatively short, but it was still enough time to absorb how beautiful the building actually was. Sadly, we were not allowed to take any pictures and security was extremely tight. We had been allowed to take a group photo outside the building next to a bronze statue of Gandhi. However, only the representative from parliament was permitted to take the photo on his mobile device and he never sent the photo to Amity for ‘security reasons’, which was frustrating but nothing can be done about that.

We had an interesting workshop that was set up for us. It was at the Amity School of Communication. This session was hosted on the top floor of a huge building and this floor had been converted into a TV studio, radio station and dance hall. Most of the session was hosted in the TV studio and we had been encouraged to take part in some of the activities that the students had set up for us. We had been asked to dress up for the class and I asked if someone could tie a turban on me, which I found to be really comfortable. Then under the lights the Amity students had a chance to ask us questions, which made me feel as if I was some Bollywood star. Later on, we got invited to do a radio station interview ,which was not aired, thankfully as I hate the sound of my own voice. Quite strangely, this would become one of my favourite experiences on the trip as it was not something that I had ever experienced before, it was truly a unique experience being under the stage lights and having questions thrown at you.

The Friday before our trip to Jaipur and Agra, we were hosted by the Amity culinary school for lunch and served a three course meal, that was prepared by the students. Having a three course meal just before an outing to the Qutb Minar Complex was ideal. Walking around the monuments in such heat and humidity was not the best, but it was well worth the effort. The Minor and the surrounding buildings were built during the reign of the Mugal Emperor Humayun. It was the first of many monuments that we would see in India and each one came with its own stories from that time period.

The long trip to Jaipur and Agra

Saturday 31st September 2019 we set off for Jaipur. We would be staying at another Amity campus in the city free of charge. The total distance was around 300km and it took us about 5 hours and 30 minutes to arrive. The journey there was hilarious and even our lecturer joined in with the banter. We arrived late in the evening and straight away I was put off by the sheer amount of insects that had swarmed the lighting of our accommodation. I had a room to myself and I had a king size bed which was way comfier than the one in my other room at the Delhi campus. However, I was so put off by the insects and lizards that I couldn’t sleep properly. All was good, in the morning we set off for Amer Fort. Our coach took us to a small town where the fort was located and we had to get jeeps to take us up to the fort as the roads weren’t suitable for a coach. The town was busy with locals and tourists, I spotted some Indian elephants that you could pay to ride, which I did not do as I had noticed that their tusks were missing and I did not want to finance such a trade. The journey by jeep to the fort was relatively short about 15 minutes in total and once up there, you could see the mountains and towns below; it was breathtaking. The structure itself was constructed of red sandstone and marble and once again it was magnificent Mughal architecture that made the fort so beautiful. Once we had explored the Fort and the surrounding areas we went down to the Jaipur market, I learnt that this would become a taster for what Old Delhi had in store for us. It was hectic we only spent about 4 hours in the market, but with all the haggling and moving about all of us were absolutely knackered. We got rickshaws back to our coach that was waiting just outside of town and I prepared myself for another 5 hour journey the next to Agra.

Agra Taj Mahal

We set off early for Agra as we had to arrive there before 18:30pm as that was its closing time. Thankfully, there was no traffic and we managed to arrive in Agra at 16:30pm. I had been looking forward to seeing the Taj Mahal (Royal Palace) as I had previously visited Christ the redeemer in Rio De Janeiro. Once you clear security there is a short walk through the estate that the Taj is located in and you go through a red brick gate that is quite dark as you walk through. Once you step out it takes your eyes a couple of seconds to re-adjust and boom the Taj appears. On the day that we visited, there wasn’t a huge amount of visitors. This was probably due to the cloudy weather but I preferred it this way as it allowed for some good photo opportunities. The visit to the Taj was short and sweet, which was brilliant as the humidity in Agra was rather unbearable and I just couldn’t hack it for much longer.

Second Week

During our second week we attended a few lectures and went out in the evenings with the buddies to try some street food. However, Amity had planned a trip to Old Delhi for us and little did I know it would become a massive eye opener. We had seen parts of rural India on our way to Jaipur and Agra, but Old Delhi was different. It was like going back in time, very old colonial style buildings, narrow roads and electric and telephone wires running in a tangled mesh above our heads. We had a tour guide who was showing us around and giving us instructions on how to stay safe and not get pickpocketed. Old Delhi was intense, the roads barely had enough space for people to walk on but somehow people would ride their motorbikes and rickshaws through them. Our tour guide took us through the spice markets and up onto the roof tops, which allowed us to escape the madness down below. It was really peaceful just watching the rest of the market hustle and bustle down below.

Our last excursion was to the Lotus Temple, a structure built in 1986 and open to all religions as a place of worship. A very peaceful place that has pools surrounding it and I found that it summed up India as country pretty well. India is many things: rich, poor, diverse and so on. However, the best thing about India is that it is welcoming to everyone. The people are great and the buddies especially helpful. Whenever we asked them for something they would always do their best for us.

In Summary

The two weeks in India were fantastic for me. I formed some fantastic relationships with people and I have been invited back to explore the country some more. The one thing I can say is that 2 weeks is not enough time to spend in India, but it did allow me to grasp an understanding of the country and culture. Once I finish my studies I will hopefully be able to return to India and visit cities such as Mumbai and Goa. I would like to thank the buddies for all of their hard work, along with Brunel and Amity university for organising such an invaluable experience.