How is India? – Nele Syster Ketels, Germany

How is India? – Nele Syster Ketels, Germany

“How is India?”, a friend from Germany asks. How is India? India is…India! Great – full of culture, fantastic, lovely, delicious, cheap, colourful, and wonderful? Is it possible to answer this question?

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I came to India because I heard about the rich culture, nice people, and landscapes. I wanted to flee from western culture and behaviour and my required future.

When my volunteer year came closer and closer, I often asked myself: “Do I know what I am doing? Going into a foreign country for 1 year? Alone?” Maybe I didn’t know, but I believed in it.

I am working and staying in an ashram. In the beginning of my time in India, it was the summer holidays and we could spend a lot of time with the children. We taught them English 2 hours a day, played a lot of games and went out for functions. Now, the holidays are over so that we stay a lot of time almost alone in the ashram. We started doing a daily program with the children like playing games, singing and craft work. They love doing craft work. I have never folded, cut and painted that much before.  One more girl from Germany lives with me so that we can share our feelings and problems. We became good friends and I have never really felt loneliness.

I also feel very close to the children. They are from ages 5 – 19, boys and girls mixed. I feel like a mother, sister, and friend at the same time. Of course, sometimes I enjoy having time for myself, but I am always looking forward to the return of the kids from school.

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I have traveled to a few other places like Hyderabad, Bijapur, Mysore and Bangalore. I plan to go more around because I like to see new places and to meet new people. Twice I did couch surfing – a group of members on the internet that offer their home to travellers for staying there. It was a nice experience and I learned more about the culture and the daily life of South Indians. The trains are exactly these that you can see in Indian movies, crowded, people are chatting, relaxing, and being themselves.

There are a lot of differences comparing my life here and the Indian culture to the Germans. I mean, I am singing and praying every day to Hindu gods, I am eating with my right hand while using my left hand for the toilet, the children sleep on the floor and so on. While telling all these things to my family and friends, it sounds strange and unfamiliar, but I have never felt that way. Behind all this, I see humans – they have sorrows and joy, they feel fear and relief, they learn, grow and believe. It’s only the details that change.

So, what I experience is new. We are visiting holy places that I have never believed in, we are tasting food that I have never heard of, we are feeling happiness and pain that I have never thought of.

I am sure I will adopt new ways of life and deepen my personality. Often, I catch myself shaking my head like an Indian or asking “Oota aayitha?” (Have you finished eating?”).  For that, I am really happy spending 8 more months in this country and am looking forward to feeling India with all my senses.

How is India? India is life. For experiencing this, you need to come here.

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