Monday, June 6, 2016

Reflection on India

A reflection on the trip.
Touchdown in the whirling chaos of Bangaluru introduced us to a menagerie of urbanism that challenged us to break through observation and live inside India. From a comfortable nest at Ixora we ventured daily at increasing distance and confidence into the world that we would call home for three weeks. As our palettes expanded from the KFC a half block away to village-cooked meals made without electricity, so too did our appreciation for the society and individuals we were inhabiting. Symptoms, such as litter, poverty, unbridled urban expansion and energy outages, expanded into an understanding of government structure, advocacy, capitalism, entrepreneurism and cultural norms. Individual actors seeking to affect change shared their views and efforts that contribute to the mosaic of one of the fastest growing cities in the world, facing opportunity and challenges of modernism while maintaining cultural history. As the surface observations drew us deeper, we were led by relatable local educators whose hopes, dreams and sophistication were utterly similar to our own despite operating in a foreign land.

The ACARA course offered a stunning portrayal of the strength and challenges of Indian society. The increasing immersion into the unfamiliar, led us from entrepreneurial share spaces, to the vibrant challenges of urban slums, to incongruous government complexes, to a crescendo of immersion in rural village life. The contradictions of our adopted home led us to appreciate and question our own incongruences. How do we act as citizens of the world at home or abroad? How do we project and protect our values and protect what is dear no matter where we live? How do we build resilient and sustainable systems of government, agriculture, healthcare, energy, housing and water?

This course did not provide the answers to these global grand challenges. Instead it let us sharpen and ask more nuanced questions. As the course progressed, large problems were broken down into manageable portions and solutions were postulated and refined. The students emerged with a greater understanding of themselves, their place in the world and how to become agents of change. The assembled strangers became friends and those friendships will endure to enhance life-long learning and advancement of sustainable environmental, engineering and social action. The problems we encounter will take over a billion lifetimes to solve, but after living amongst the 1.2 billion lives in India, it appears possible.