By Mohammed Talal Ibraheem Huraini
I completed my high school in 2012. With not enough finance to study further, my academic journey came to an abrupt halt thereafter. But I was determined to take up higher studies eventually, so I invested myself in collecting money to enter university within a year or two. It was during this time that I came across an advertisement on TV, announcing that the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) was opening its registration doors for scholarships. I felt like my stars were brightening up, and this opportunity was the universe’s signal of pushing me towards the road to success. And rightly so. Upon successfully claiming the scholarship, July /2013 I finally came to a land I had hitherto heard only faintly about. I had no robust idea about India, except for all that I had observed in Indian movies (which, even back home, we watch with great enthusiasm and admiration). It is only after being here for a good number of years now that I have realized how India is so much more than Bollywood, and how true it is to its acclaimed title of “Unity in Diversity”, and how there is so much learning in life lived here each day.
Beginning of the roller-coaster life:
I arrived in India as a typical Arab young man, not merely appearance wise but also in thoughts, behaviors, and expectations. After landing in Delhi, when I went out of the airport, naturally I felt like a stranger among the otherwise busy airport. I had my eyes and ears everywhere trying to figure out what I should do that moment. The airport staff had been very nice to me, guiding me all through till my exit. But outside the airport, I had no clue on how to proceed further, and how to talk so as to manage myself, since I was not very fluent in English as well. By some means I could manage a cab. I was just beginning to feel at ease when I noticed that the driver was sitting on the right side of the car. which is totally opposite from my place, where the driver’s seat is on the left side. It was at that moment that I felt my roller-coaster journey has just begun!
My tilt towards personality growth and grooming:
Everything that is new and unfamiliar may seem very terrifying, especially when you travel alone, and if you are bigheaded like me. Along with the cultural shock, language was the biggest barrier for me. To overcome this, my friends and well-wishers advised me to read up books, any book, as many books as I can. I heeded to their advice, and within a matter of months, I passed my first semester examination with flying colors, in English medium! Continuing in the same spirit, I made it a point to surround myself with fellow students and peers whose medium of communication was a mix of English and Hindi. It was a mix of lovely Indian people who came to my rescue. They not only helped me academically, but also acquainted me with the roots and shoots of India. I visited many historical places in Delhi with them, the most prominent ones being Qutub Minar, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, and Akshardham Temple. Each monumental figure fascinated me, inching me closer to the real India. I even frequented the gigantic malls and adventure parks around “kyunki entertainment bi zaroori hota hay” (because entertainment is equally important).
“Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead” Morihei Ueshiba.
Every day when I was out of my room, I would catch new phrases and dialogues commonly used by the locals, including by the rickshaw pullers, the vendors, the store keepers, etc. I remember once I was outside with a friend and we had to hire an auto, my friend was completely surprised (and in awe) when he saw me bargaining for the auto fare! The Indian Enlightenment had come to me, if I may call it so.
I am not lying when I say that I survived almost the first month of my stay in India on packed biscuits and juices. Initially the Indian food did not suit my appetite, and I was extremely wary of it because of all the spices in contains. But the human tendency to adjust got the better of me, and now I am a pro when it comes to the famous and scrumptious street food of India (it’s an economic savior too!). Some of my favorite dishes are chole bhature, kadhai paneer, food wraps (both veg and non veg), Al Bake’s chicken lababdaar and tikka, of course biryani and kebab. ne dish I have often been challenged about but I am still to try is golgappe.
Many states, but One Nation- the united front of India:
In India, each city has a different story. The best that a person can do in his life is to indulge in travel most of his span of time that he is spending in India. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit some of the beautiful cities myself. The list isn’t a long one, as each state is a different world in its entirety and so it is not practical to visit all of them. Kicking off with a trip to Jaipur (mesmerizing forts and culture) with my best friend and his father, I subsequently visited Bangalore (the IT hub), Kerala (God’s own country, literally), Goa (loved the beaches and the aura), and last but not the least, Kashmir! During each tour, I realized that although they are citizens of the one country, people of each state held dear to them their own cultures, dresses, foods, dance and music, and unique approaches to life. And yet with all these differences, their allegiance, their pride and their loyalty remains to their one nation. Maybe this common thread of brotherhood arises from their shared history of occupation and their united and victorious fight for freedom.
“In this vast country of ours, people profess different religions, speak different languages, dress differently and observe different customs; but we are one nation; the history of our struggle for independence and our faith in our future development are our common bonds”. Lal Bahadur Shastri
Coming from a place where there are more boundaries than freedom, the free atmosphere of India also touched me deeply.
Breathe deeply, relax and enjoy the little thing.
I grew up in a place where you can see the results of anything quickly, so I had no idea what it meant to “wait for it”. In my beginning days, I once went to a restaurant, and ordered for food. I was expecting the waiter to bring my food within minutes of placing the order. 10 minutes passed, and impatience was very apparent on my face. The waiter who took the request, asked me innocently why I was feeling so upset. He said and I translate, “you have extra minutes to enjoy life before your get food, isn’t it?”. His kind gesture and words felt right, I took a deep breath and contemplated the beauty surrounding me until my food arrived.
That day I learnt another important lesson- patience is an incredible virtue, and mother India can teach it to you perfectly.
My take on Education in India:
India was previously known as one of the third world countries that sends its students abroad to complete their studies. But in recent years, with the amount of dedication and hard work invested in the development of this country, the tables have truly turned. India has now become one of the favorite destinations for many students who wish to pursue their studies abroad.
It has one of the best education systems in Asia alongside many universities and scientific institutes with a high ranking in the world. In addition, the inclusion of English as one of the official languages in the country (along with Hindi) has only increased its attraction to foreign academicians and students alike. The developing infrastructure in the country and the ease of accessible facilities has further strengthened the country’s position as a study destination for international students.
Suffice it to say that the most famous CEOs of major companies and well-known businessmen have graduated from Indian universities. For example, we find: Sundar Pichai, Google CEO
Shantanu Narayen, CEO, Adobe Indra Nooyi, Former CEO of PepsiCo Rajeev Suri, President & CEO of NOKIA and Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
All these people and others have graduated from Indian universities and institutes, and this is evidence that education in India is very strong and capable of producing crews who influence the present and future of universe.
Among the merits of studying in Indian universities or institutes that I personally observed and benefitted from are:
the high educational level of Indian institutions is internationally acclaimed, and graduates from Indian universities are internationally weighted,
India has a plethora of institutes and universities in various disciplines, even the certificates obtained by a student in India are internationally recognized; higher education is supervised by senior experts,
both studying and living in India is economical, so the student can complete his or her studies with ease, and there is no financial burden,
Ease of integration with Indian society, given that the Indian people are very hospitable, very humble. I have especially been awed by my numerous interactions with the people of lower status- from rickshaw pullers to vegetable vendors. Living with such meagre means and still displaying a pleasant attitude, greeting with a smile each time I pass them, these are memories that I will cherish all my life.
The student can see many of the cultures in India that have fewer counterparts in the world, and this helps him or her expand his knowledge and horizon. Like I have said, learning in India is not just limited to university and college. In fact, there is learning, more important learning, in each aspect of the life lived here.
Even the normal everyday travel to and from a place were a learning experience in itself. I still remember every time I used to visit this famous mall in Saket, South Delhi (Select Citywalk Mall), I would often get stuck in the traffic jam at a junction on my way. It was a routine for that junction to be choked with traffic at office hours, and I could not help myself from thinking of ways I, as a civil engineer in making, could re-design that junction to overcome the traffic problem. I would make a mental note of my observations and plausible solutions, and then have a wholesome discussion about those with my classmates and friends. This is just one of the endless examples of my learning that happened right on field!
What it means to be in India is something beyond the horizon, the value it adds to your life and personality growth are better experienced than heard about. Often things do not go as planned, and in India these troublesome situations might happen and things go different than our desires. But if you make yourself strong enough to accept the situation as it is, adopt the skill of being patient, then you will slowly but surely be able to deal with any and every challenges of life.
In a short time, your skills will develop and you will acquire new methods that affect your personality and habits, the experience will become part of you and change the way you think and behave. And before you realize it, you will be a new, a better, a stronger version of yourself – the 2.0 version of yourself!
In a nutshell for me “India is the place which when you enter, you will cry and when you will leave it you will be crying too”.