Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wrapping Up !

The last week and a half has been a constant reminder of what has become the most exciting travel adventure of my life. In getting readjusted to the everyday grind of going to class and work here at Texas A&M UniversityKingsville, I cannot help but compare the various experiences here to those I will forever cherish from my first trip overseas and my first trip to India.

There are a few people who I would like to thank for making this whole experience truly memorable. I cannot express enough gratitude for the time and effort that Dr. Nirmal Goswami (TAMUK) and Dr. Kishore Gawande (the Bush School,Texas A&M-College Station), devoted towards making this class possible. Both prepared the students well to cope with the many interesting challenges faced by foreign visitors when shopping at the varied and colorful local markets in Delhi. In all seriousness, the two of you made a huge commitment and made the otherwise impossible possible—and for that I thank you sincerely. To those in the administration who were able to help provide direction or additional funding for the trip, your contributions are greatly appreciated. For those who gave generously from within I thank you as well. A special thanks to Dr. and Mrs.Unam Cho, Mr. and Mrs. Ron Hyde, the Woodmen of America, and the TAMUK Foundation for generously supporting our trip. Thanks also to Mr. Frank Hull and Ms. Debbie Quinones from TAMUK’s Office of International Programs.

In looking back at the various topic areas covered pertaining to “India’s Political Economy,” I realize how much was learned within a relatively short time. From an overview of Growth and Development of the Indian Economy to specifics about India’s various economic policies aimed at maintaining such substantial growth while addressing serious issues of disparities. There was also much discussion about economic development and the government’s delicate role. Indo-China and Indo-US relations are also very important considerations in developing future as well as existing policies. All these issues are very complex, but only a part of the puzzle which also includes the historical aspects of India’s diversity inclusive of its multitude of cultures.

The many analytical presentations we attended every morning at JNU were complemented by separate afternoon outreach activities and field trips. These trips were uniquely beneficial. Some of the places we visited were private Indian Think-Tanks; the Taj Mahal; a Micro Credit NGO known as FODRA; a visit with an economic advisor in the Ministry of Finance; a research institute/university known as The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI). A word of thanks is also due to JNU, our host university. From the first to the very last day- the day of our farewell dinner, people we met and who contributed so much to the success of our trip were a just outstanding, especially Dr. Alokesh Barua. I will miss the calm among the madness that is Delhi traffic. I will miss the hospitality of not just the staff of the Pamposh Guest House, but of everyone I encountered. Whether it was in an academic setting or a trip to a market, everyone seemed to offer a piece of their kindness and that I will never forget. Of course I cannot go without mentioning the cuisine. At times it seemed as if I would not be able to handle the spiciness of the food for health reasons, but in the end, it was just too difficult to stay away from the smorgasbord of unique dishes and I made do with my bottle of acid reducer tablets.

Overall, India was a unique experience and Dr. Goswami was absolutely accurate in his description. It is a place where everything you have heard about it is true and so too is the opposite. India is a developing country with a complexity of grand proportions and I believe it will be an even greater political and economic force in the future—perhaps a good reason to go back someday. This trip was so impactful on my being that I am finding it hard to walk on the right side—literally I keep finding myself walking on the left hand side and for some odd reason I hope that stays with me! - JRQ

When I first got to India I thought that perhaps two weeks would be too long to stay. On our last day there I felt like I had just arrived and had barely seen anything India had to offer. While I did get to see some amazing things, there is so much more to see. I really did enjoy myself and I do plan on going back. It seems strange to not see the group every day. For two weeks they became my family, not just the students from TAMUK, but from the Bush School as well.

I was afraid that I might have picked up some driving habits while in India, even today as I was driving home I thought this two lane street could easily hold four. While I really enjoy our traffic laws and the fact that everyone follows them, well at least for the most part, I do miss the chaos of the Delhi streets.

I really liked the Barista coffee shop we visited regularly in Delhi. I wish we had one here in Kingsville, but with Delhi prices! What I do not miss is the cold classrooms, I really like that we have central heat. I really enjoyed the conversations that we had with the Bush students and especially with the students and professors from JNU. It was quite stimulating to interact with such knowledgeable people.

The thing that I will probably miss the most is the hospitality of the people. Everywhere we went, the hotel, the school, the temples, literally everyone we met, all were welcoming and helpful. I think that that says a lot about a place, whatever the conditions, if the people are good then it is a good place to be.

One thing I can live without and have had no trouble getting readjusted too is the lack of noise and smog. I like my peace and quiet and my clean air.

During our coursework I have learned a lot about the economics and politics of India. The most interesting part ended up being what I thought would be the most boring, the micro-financing. I thought that this would have nothing to do with what I am interested in, but I was wrong, especially after seeing the results first hand, I think that micro financing is a good idea and can work in many situations.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and the class; I would recommend it to many people, but not all. While I loved India, it is not for everyone, but if you are up for an adventure, it is well worth it. - KK


Throughout my life I have been very privileged to experience different cultures, whether my experiences have been through cuisine, the arts, or learning about their history. But, of all my experiences, none can compare with my adventure in India.

This winter break I was able to experience a once in a life time opportunity, a trip to India. I have wanted to experience India since I was young. My father has always been fascinated by the Indian culture and ability to maintain tradition. When the opportunity for this trip was brought to my attention I could not resist.

India was everything and more than I could have ever imagined. There were three amazing attributes that stood out in my journey: the people; the architecture and the ability to accomplish so much on such a large scale.

The attitude of the Indian people is amazing. They all seem to posses the great virtue of patience. In India, I instantly noticed that although honking seems to be a pass time sport, the drivers of these vehicles seemed reasonably calm in the middle of madness. Everyone seemed to move with such purpose yet none at all. It was very odd to notice all of the Indian oxymorons. I continue to marvel at the sheer brilliance of their architecture, both historical and new. My favorite visits include the Bangla Sahib Sikh Temple and the Lotus Temple of the Bahai faith, both in Delhi. The other awesome visits were to the massive Agra Fort, and of course, the Taj Mahal. These buildings not only had ingenious architectural designs, but the religious aspects were the highlight of these buildings. The dedication and pride the community has in these landmarks is extraordinary.

The most amazing aspect of India was that with all the chaos, the poverty, the construction and the other random events, this country functions in its own distinct way. India is not only growing in population but also economically. I will always remember my experience and adventure in India. I was able to share these memories with great friends, old and new, and I would love to go back to India to share what I have experienced with my family. I will always remember India and hope that I will be able to appreciate what I have and learn to be patient with life like the people of India, because all great things will happen in time. - AS

Though I have now been back at home and in school for over a week, I am still finding new things to tell my family and friends about my time in India. It is amazing that I learned so much about the culture and politics of India in a mere two weeks. I think I might have learned more in the two weeks we spent in New Delhi than I did on my last study abroad trip to the University of Oxford. Though the time I spent in Oxford was longer, I found the English way of life extremely similar to life here in the U.S. India, on the other hand, provided me with two full weeks of surprises, excitement and challenges. Perhaps the fundamental difference in my experiences is due to the fact that the United Kingdom, like the United States, is a wealthy developed nation while India is a vast developing country.

My two study abroad experiences have been greatly different. In the United Kingdom, I was surrounded by all the things I deemed necessary in life. Everyone seemed rather alike each other, the division between the rich and the poor not really visible. India seemed an altogether peculiar country where each person on the street seemed to be different in someway. Sometimes it was a different religion, language, or family history. At other times it was a difference in economic class. It was strange to see that right outside the homes of affluent families, the homeless gathered to rest. This trip made me realize all the things people can take for granted highly industrialized societies, such as abundant drinking water, paved roads, strict controls on pollution, bathroom facilities and uninterrupted electricity. I recognize now that these are luxuries we have grown so accustomed to that we fail to remember there are millions of people in this world who do without them.

I think there is hope for developing countries in light of the changes brought about by globalization. With the current increases in instantaneous communications, economic liberalization, and the spread of democracy, I expect more actors to be playing more important roles in the international arena. Though it may be an idealistic view, I think the trend towards greater interconnectedness will also begin to close the gap between the standards of living in first and third world countries. With the increasing growth in international trade and transnational companies, less-developed states will become more incorporated into the world system and the demand for better infrastructures and the resources to build them will be more available. Looking back on the experience I had both inside and outside the classroom in New Delhi, I think such a future is a real possibility for India. - SMA


As J.R. and I drove out of the George H. Bush Intercontinental Airport parking lot the night we got back from our 28.5-hour trip from India with a 4.5-hour drive remaining before we saw our homes, I stated, “It’s like nothing’s changed but everything is different; not because anything here is different, but because I’ve changed.”

Now, a week-and-a-half later, I ponder on what I meant by that comment.

At the time, I was looking at the wide, well-lit streets with brightly painted lines and dashes, clearly visible reflective road signs, traffic lights, and obedient drivers. The steering wheels were on the left side of the cars and we were driving on the right side of the 4-lane highway, traveling at 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour – a speed that we never came near to approaching in India!!

I was breathing the fresh Texas air and looking up at the stars, which, in India, I had only really seen for a couple of nights after a rainstorm. The rest of the time the heavens were obscured by smog.

At the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport, after going through immigrations and customs, I had enjoyed a real hamburger, made of real beef (not mutton or some vegetarian substitute), with real, crispy bacon, fresh, juicy tomatoes and lettuce, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise – absolutely no curry, insane hot sauce, or other stomach-balance-defying spiciness! I’d asked for water as my beverage – TAP water!!

So I suppose the first change wrought in me by my trip to and experiences in India was a renewed, perhaps intensified appreciation for my US comforts. I’ve traveled to Central America and Europe before, experiencing the same type of sensations upon my return each time, but it was more poignant this time – either because the contrast between my life here and my observations of life in India was more marked or maybe just because this is my most recent international travel experience and therefore it is the most fresh in my mind.

But I’ve changed in other ways, too. My ideas about the world have been challenged as I’ve learned about the largest democracy in existence with one of the fastest growing economies today and the difficulties of governing and providing for 1.1 billion people.

I feel that nothing could have adequately prepared me for my trip to India. Dr. Goswami tried to do so by describing it to us and telling us about the history, politics, and economics and having us read and watch videos and movies about India before our trip. But I think the most valuable advice he gave us was to be prepared for anything and everything. He said to take everything we’d heard, read, and imagined about India and believe it to be true. And then he told us to take the exact opposite and believe that to be true, too. He told us to be ready to see the good, the bad, the ugly, the better, the worst, and the uglier. And he told us to be ready to have fun and enjoy ourselves. It’s like he was a prophet – it all came true!

All in all, as I write this and as I think about my half-hour conversation with a reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller Times earlier today, I realize that I am still overwhelmed by my experience in India. I don’t know how to describe it, really.

I was extremely impressed with and enriched by the lectures we were granted by Jawaharlal Nehru University faculty and other military, civic, and political leaders of India. Conversing with the JNU students was a real treat and I look forward to greeting some of them via email sometime soon. I thoroughly enjoyed our visits to many places of worship, ancient historical sites, farms, and modern progressive environmental and charitable institutions. Shopping and dining were always adventures.

I hope I can sort through all my notes and make enough sense of them to develop a useful topic for further investigation, analysis, and application. Actually, I must – I have to write a paper about my India adventure! I came into this course expecting to find parallels between India’s political and economic relationship with the United States and the same relationship between the US and El Salvador. Now, I think this approach may not be as helpful as would be exploring the potential expansion of the political and economic relationship between El Salvador and India. Perhaps in this way, I can best help the country of my birth…

I have been changed by Dr. Goswami’s (TAMU-Kingsville) and Dr. Gawande’s (TAMU-College Station) unbounded enthusiasm and humor, Herculean efforts, expert guidance, and genuine care, Dr. Mumpower’s (TAMU-College Station) and Dr. Dorch’s (TAMU-College Station) delightful company and excellent insights, and even Dr. Hartwig’s (TAMU-Kingsville) friendship and the enlightening lecture he offered on his proposed reforms for the United Nations Security Council. I feel blessed to know them and learn from them, and I feel immensely grateful to them.

And I would be remiss to neglect mentioning the buoying camaraderie developed during my two-and-a-half weeks bunking with J.R. and the thrill it was to befriend and work with Sarah, Ashley, and Katharine, as well as all the Bush School students. I am a better person because of them and I feel motivated to be a better student. - HB

Sunday, January 13, 2008

School Work!

Unique India!

The classes that we have taken have for the most part been very enlightening and informative. I have gone from knowing nothing about micro credit and micro financing to seeing it first hand and understanding at least the basic idea of it. While there is more I would like to learn about this service I think that it is a good idea and has an enormous impact on individual lives, which seems to be the point, at least in India. I think that micro credit and finance would have really good implications in the USA and could work well in disaster relief and in metropolitan ghettos. –KK

The past few weeks in India have been amazing. All the common conveniences of American life I am used to are not at first glance present in India. The power outages and interesting toilets are becoming common for me. I have really adapted well to life here in India. I have also learned many interesting subjects from my studies at JNU. The students at this school are incredible and really cherish the fact that they are able to pursue higher education. The faculty, students and staff at JNU have treated us with the highest respect and I am very appreciative of that. I love experiences I have had in this great city and country and cannot wait until my next visit. - AS

Over the past few weeks here in Delhi, the group and I have been sharing in this experience which has gone through many levels of disbelief, belief, and more disbelief. These experiences have been shared on the one hand, but also unique to the individual. I myself have been inundated with many of the unique aspects of Delhi life. Hopefully this translates well in the following paragraphs.

Language can be found in many forms depending on the individual’s home state. There are 16 official languages in India and it is not uncommon to hear a number of them spoken on the streets of Delhi. For many reasons, people are proud of their regional cultures and it shows in their dress as well. Many of those same individuals who are speaking the various languages of India are the same people who can be distinguished by their unique costuming which is distinct to the region of India from which they hail—sometimes this is also a distinguished characteristic which can also be the result of their religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the uniqueness remains.

One of the other unique characteristics which I find to be quite interesting about Delhi, is the “mixed usage” that is so much a part of urban space usage. One of the best examples which I can use to show is the very hotel in which we are staying at—Pamposh Guest House. The bottom level of the hotel we are staying at is actually a Dominoes Pizza. This is interesting because in most cases, especially in South Texas, this is not a common occurrence, but in Delhi this is actually the case. The area in which we are staying, Greater Kalaish II (GK II), is indicative of this same situation. You can walk pretty much in any direction and on the next block you will find a number of shops, restaurants, and bars on the bottom level and living space just above.

The last example which I would like to mention is yet another unique aspect of not just Delhi but the whole of India. A few days ago we had the opportunity to visit an institute of higher learning, the Energy and Research Institute (TERI). The institute is also a research (think tank), and environmental resource center. TERI is an oasis in the midst of farming flats and a growing corporate business sector outside the city of Delhi. It is located in Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi, and serves as yet another example of the uniqueness that translates into an important cause which is such an integral part of the growth that has enveloped India. The facility we visited is responsible for incorporating environmental technology which makes use of gasifying processes to produce electricity as well a solar panels which aid in the same production of electricity. TERI is responsible for developing a facility that is self-sustainable. This model not only translates into a potential resource in aiding with increasing consumption demands, but also into a solution to perhaps a multi-pronged approach necessary to combat the rising pollution concerns.

There are so many examples of uniqueness that are specific to Delhi and many which can be generally applied to India. The importance of discussing all of this is two-fold. One reason is to recognize Delhi’s diversity and the other is to give those of you reading this a sense of the experience which I contend has changed my life for the better. - JRQ

In previous posts and/or journal entries, my fellow Bharat Hippo Rats and I have most likely mentioned the symphonic cacophony that is the traffic of New Delhi. We have all been frightened to the point of nearly needing a change of clothes, but mostly we have marveled at how a flow of traffic that cannot conceivably operate actually does operate.

In the last lecture of our program at JNU yesterday, Professor Gurbachan Singh expressed that population density in India is not a problem – not even in the overcrowded cities like New Delhi and Mumbai – as compared to the population density of other (more developed) localities like Hong Kong and Bangladesh. Though he was referring to population density’s impact on real estate prices, I associated his population density declaration with the means by which people transport themselves from Point A to Point B.

I was incredulous; how can there not be a population density problem here when all day, every day I witness such traffic bedlam?! Dr. Kishore Gawande of Texas A&M University-College Station told us that only 20% of persons in New Delhi have cars. So I must surmise that, if New Delhi had the population density of the aforementioned places, and if more of the people here had cars, things would be much, much worse. Is it possible for things to be worse? I guess so.

But that still leaves the question of how the dysfunctional traffic system functions. I believe I know how. The answer came to me as an epiphany while I was riding in the back seat of a Tata: I was thinking about British comedian Mr. Bean in the movie “Johnny English”. In one scene, he unsuccessfully uses a unique form of echo-location to find his way through a pitch-dark tunnel.

And then it struck me: Indian motorists have their own special echo-location technique for avoiding wrecks and weaving and wending their way through incredible traffic jams! It’s the all-mighty honk!

Auto-rickshaws and buses all have the polite request “Horn Please” painted or stickered on their back bumpers. Our driver was copiously complying with this request, as were all the other vehicles on the road! The unenlightened observer might ask why everyone is constantly honking, or “horning” and this observer may feel annoyed at all the seemingly unnecessary and pointless noise. But that’s only because we westerners are accustomed to only using our horn to express alarm or anger. Here, the horn is the equivalent of a bat’s screech.

And we shouldn’t be surprised at the idea of using sound vibrations to “see”, since the notion has been present in our society via a Marvel Comics character recently depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster with his name: “Daredevil”.

Finally, we must realize that, unlike Mr. Bean, the people of India are well-accustomed to perfect sounds, this being the place where the holy syllable “Om” is most often pronounced. Perhaps their horns are the synthetic version of “Om”. – HB

Thinking of India now, I can no longer relate it to one symbol or monument. India is a unique country composed of far more than simply snake-charmers and the Taj Mahal. It is home to about 1.1 billion people with varied backgrounds and experiences. Still, each Indian shows some connection or pride in his homeland. On my first night in New Delhi, the taxi driver proclaimed with a good deal of pride, “Welcome to my India.” Overall, I feel the people in the city have met us with a warm welcome and quite a bit of curiosity This is what really stands out to me about the people here in India: their genuine interest and willingness to talk to foreigners. It has become rather common for us to be approached by a stranger who is interested in our plans here and our observations about India.

I have not really felt moved by anything as much as the events of this past week. As part of our activities with JNU, the TAMUK and Bush School students had unique opportunities to meet with non-governmental organizations and academic experts in the fields of micro-credit and sustainable development. On one outreach activity, our group of students went to meet representatives of a micro-financing institution called the Fountain for Development Research and Action (FODRA) in north-east Delhi. We were witness to the many social benefits micro-financing institutions can have on the lives of impoverished people in developing countries. By giving small loans to generate income and meet consumption needs of self-help groups, FODRA is helping lessen the amount of people who faces problems like malnutrition and unsanitary living conditions on a daily basis. The thing that seemed the most striking to me was the crowd we generated while meeting with FODRA clients in the community. Within minutes, it seemed as if we were surrounded by the entire community. It was a bit overwhelming for me at the time, but looking back now at the sheer amount of people who were interested in our conversations with the local women was extraordinary.

The experience we had meeting with FODRA clients was later enhanced by the lecture given by JNU professor, Amit Ray, Ph. D. Professor Ray specializes in economics and teaches at the Centre for International Trade and Development at the School of International Studies. The professor’s energetic lecture titled “Micro Credit for Poverty Alleviation” helped explain how micro-financing institutions like FODRA work to remove the people from the vicious circle of poverty. Both the rural and urban poor may never be able to pull themselves out of their unfortunate economic conditions because they do not have the collateral necessary to secure loans from traditional lending institutions. This experience has shown me that while micro-finance may only be responsible for marginal macro-economic consequences, it is making a real difference in the quality of lives of many individuals who are poor.

Out of everything seen and heard on this trip, what I shall remember the most vividly the optimistic outlooks that Delhi citizens and university intellectuals have for the future of India. Perhaps someday soon India will see a reduced amount of poor nestled on the streets, less pollution in the air, and an improvement in the living conditions for all. Only time will tell what role micro-financing will play in improving India’s place in the world economy and there are reasons to be hopeful. -SMA

Monday, January 7, 2008

ONE WEEK LATER!

We have now been in India for several days and I should have died about a dozen times. However, every time we make it out of situations without a ding or a scratch. It is amazing, the traffic should not work, but somehow it does. From what I have learned about India’s government it should not work either, but like the traffic, it does.

Delhi is a several hundred year old city and we have been visiting many of the city’s historical sites. One of the newer attractions is The Baha’i Temple. It was absolutely serene. We also went to the Taj Mahal. It truly is a wonder, and the nearby Agra Fort was just amazing. To have lived in the fort as a Mughal royalty must have been an experience like none other. Sometimes we see small children without clothes and seemingly homeless; that’s hard to take. The general warmth and hospitality of the people we have met pleases us all. English is widely used but not everyone can speak it; even if they do not speak English they try their best to help you as much as they can. - KK



It has been eight days since we arrived here in Delhi and each day has been a kaleidoscope of experiences. From the smell of fresh roasted peanuts, naan (A type of Indian bread), and other delightful treats not normally found in everyday American life to the hustle and bustle of traffic on the streets of Delhi; commerce seems to be everywhere, both large and small scale—evidence that amidst the chaos is a complex economic structure partly disguised as a simple mom-and-pop based arrangement. The entire economy seems poised for even more growth. Many who participate in this economy work more than 2 or 3 jobs just to maintain a basic lifestyle. It is unfortunate that so many spend 12 to 18 hours a day working just to survive, but the reality is that people in India are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Having said all this, I have one more thing to say. Up to this point the Indian landscape has fulfilled, better yet, exceeded my expectations in more ways than I can recount. – J.R.

I keep telling myself that I need to stop trying to compare India to Guatemala and El Salvador. Some similarities are inevitable: the litter, the tapping on the car windows by the poor, people latching onto my clothing, arms, legs as I walk by (only when I am doing so accompanied by my more-western-looking friends), as well as the kindness and hospitality and shrewd and questionable business ethics of the small and even larger-scale vendors on the side of the road and in the open-air markets and shopping centers.

Haggling is commonplace, expected, even desired. But I cannot dispute prices here. I do not speak their language and they do not speak mine, or at least they do not speak it intelligibly enough for me to coax and prod and threaten to walk away.

Mainly, I am awed by the density of people everywhere all the time. And I continue feeling some despair at realizing the nigh-unto-insurmountable challenge of enforcing laws throughout a country severely lacking in infrastructure.

I used to think that the only way El Salvador and Guatemala could compete in the world and eventually restore their autonomy as sovereign nations was via their human resource – the people. But India has a serious competitive advantage: 7 million in El Salvador versus 1.1 billion in India. So what can the tiny Central American nations do? Will they always depend on the United States and other wealthy nations for their continued survival?

I have enjoyed the lectures at Jawaharlal Nehru University as well as the “outreach activities”. I look forward to learning more from Indians about India. And then I hope to use that information to help El Salvador and Guatemala. – HB


Since I have been in New Delhi, each day has been a different kind of experience. One predominating thing that stands out among the vast amount of activity is the way life is so diverse here. There are traditional Indian men and women and then there are very westernized people. There are very shabby buildings with an upscale restaurant on the top floor. People move about their day with such determination. The pedestrians and traffic are so focused on where they need to be they fail to follow the rules of the road. Yet, since I have been here, I have only seen one accident. Out of all the chaos there are areas of beauty and serenity that at times make you forget that you are in the middle of an over-crowded city. We have visited such landmarks as Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Minar, Agra Fort and of course, the Taj Mahal. These examples of historical architecture were made with such beauty and attention to detail that I know I will never see such marvels again in my lifetime. I have been honing my haggling skills and still I am not up to my boyfriend’s standard but I believe that I am slowly beginning to understand the art. I cannot wait until I can practice the art more in this city full of great experiences. – AS

New Delhi came to signify many things to me all at once. I have learned that for every assumption I have ever made of this place before the trip, the opposite will nearly always be true as well. No amount of reading or news watching could have ever projected an accurate image of this huge metropolis. The city is at the center of a great population boom and economic growth. Being an ancient city, it has had difficulty trying to modernize the city amidst the chaos.

This growing metropolitan area is trying to grapple with many of the problems that others are trying to tackle today. Unemployment, drop-out rates, pollution control and lack of drinking water availability are among the characteristics of India’s capital that stand out to foreigners first. This initial judgment blinds us from appreciating the steps that the city is taking to bring its infrastructure up to par with the rest of the world.

Telephone communications have come a long way in India. One can take a short walk outside and see several stands with the markings “STD/ISD/PCO.” Each one of these booths provides Indian citizens a line of communication to the outside world. Another improvement the city is making is to ease the lives of its citizens by expanding the metro system. Continual work on the metro means more jobs are available and a future with less congested streets.

I have learned there is some rhythm to the madness here. Everywhere we have gone there is a mass of people, but things still seem to flow smoothly. Currently, the population of the capital territory stands around 14 million. Various religions, languages and economic classes are represented on every street. The disparities between the rich and poor have never been clearer to me than on the streets of New Delhi. Right outside the gates of the rich homes might lay a homeless man resting.

From our seminars at JNU, I have learned that a large portion of rural India remains tied to the agricultural industry, driving migrants to urban centers like New Delhi for work in the off-seasons. But there are too few jobs available to satisfy all the needs of those tied to the seasonal market. We have also been told that less than 10% of Indian high school graduates will enter college. This is a problem for not only the ministry of education, but for the growing services sector of the Indian economy. Another struggle for the Indian economy is trying to balance competition between the black and white markets. While most of our business transactions are traceable for tax purpose in the United States, a large chunk of the purchasing here is done with cash to avoid tax payments. This reduces government revenue and is one of the challenges the country faces. Efficient and fair revenue collection mechanisms will greatly enhance the government's resources.

The staff and students at JNU have been very welcoming to our group. I have truly enjoyed the seminars and discussions on campus. Over the next few days, I anticipate gaining more in-depth knowledge about New Delhi and the political scene of India as a whole. I believe the experience we have had here is so far beyond what any of us would have received in a classroom. -SMA

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Embarking on a New Journey!

It is only 10 days till we board a plane from Houston and journey over to Delhi, India. This is an exciting time given that I have never traveled overseas. It is also a bit solemn considering that I will be leaving my family behind (by family I mean my wife and two children--three of course if I count the one on the way). The expectations that I have developed in my mind seem to focus on the cultural aspects. Specifically, I expect to find the same sense of family and how it is valued in India. While I do not expect to interact with many families, I expect to see evidence of this in social settings where this is likely.
From a political perspective, I don't know what to expect, but from what I have read and been told, I expect almost anything. It would be unfair to say that I expect to see the same type of political landscape as the one that exists here in the United States. This is in part due to the emphasis placed on true democracy in the sense that people are not persecuted or looked upon negatively for showing their dissatisfction with their government. There are a number of independent issues worth mentioning, however I feel the necessity to leave that door open to anyone in the group who wishes to open the discussion up to one of those specific issues (i.e. micro credit financing, outsourcing, international relationships etc.). Otherwise, I am curious to see what expectations exist among the rest of us in a general sense.