Visiting Europe has always been a great dream of mine, and now here I am living every moment of it. The wonderful journey began with a nightmare ride battling through the Bangalore traffic to reach airport on time. Our connecting Turkish Airlines was departing from International terminal(Mumbai) at 0525, we were soon at the international terminal starting our long wait. Two hungry souls and lots of shops around, we decided to barge into a nearby CCD (I guess) just to realize how costly a burger and sandwich is, the same stuff outside in Andheri would be less than quarter of it. Well that's how it is, we got that as well as some sweets for our in-charge at the university. After getting the boarding passes, we proceeded to "Immigration & Customs". During the wait in the queue I saw one of the officers torturing a Chinese guy with lots of questions "Do you know anyone in Colaba?", "Do you know Gateway of India?", "Did you visit Taj Hotel?" and so on. The poor man could hardly speak any English. Why would he know anything or anyone in Colaba, the man probably came for some official stuff for a day or two. Is this the way you treat foreigners, that man probably is never returning to India. I understand national security and all, but one should always be courteous to others, well disgusting it was. This was just followed by another long queue at security check, and yet again an American just started telling "Is this how such a busy airport should work? I have seen the JFK, NY, Heathrow's of the world.."
Well, these are all not to just meant to say India is bad, but if we can bit more efficient, friendly and take care of people, then they would love to visit us again and again. It feels really good if generally people treat you well in a foreign country and not just look at them and start thinking on how all we can annoy and cheat them. We claim so much about our tradition and culture(Oh Yeah!!), then why can't we showcase it in a good way to people visiting us. Imagine such horrible incidents in airports where educated and people in service industry are doing this, also harassment of all kinds taking place in Goa, and there are so many incidents of cheating just because they are ignorant. Personally I have seen shopkeepers charging twice or thrice the price just because the customer is from a foreign country, auto fellows rob them of their money. "Ignorance is definitely NOT bliss". Yes tourism is a great source of revenue for the country, but this is not the way to do it.
This was a situation I always was aware of back home, we all know about it and live with it. But having spent few days in a foreign country now I know how horrible, in-human, and horrendous our behavior to foreigners have been. It pains a lot now.
Having landed in Copenhagen by 1900 hrs, we had to figure out how to get to Malmo by train. We saw an Information center and headed to enquire, the lady there was so kind enough to explain the way to ticket counter, how much we had to pay, how to get to the platform and which train to take and how much time it would take to get to Malmo Central. It was all followed by "Do you have any other questions?". Hmmmm!! What more do I even need to know :) Clear, comprehensive information. In no time, we found ourselves in Malmo Central. This was just one incident which was followed by so many like taxi ride from Malmo to our hostel, hostel guy, first bus ride to University, lady at Willys store, guy we found roadside for helping us with direction, shopkeeper at the Internet store, wonderful people at the university, even more amazing people at the office. This list will just go on, every other person we have talked to has been so helpful. Then we met Hans Bergstrand, the exchange student who visited India last year. Ofcourse I know as we did work together in Silverfish, but he has been so helpful starting from helping us get bikes and internet and what not. He even suggested us to take his unused TV to our apartment. And our college treated them with a leaky roof, which even crashed onto their heads.! I remember these guys going around for mineral water to store everyday and here the "Coordinator of International Program" and "Professor-in-charge" are making us sit and they are doing our stipend related work and busy getting us library cards.
Its not just about perfect systems in place here, but the human touch people here give with the greeting nature and ready to help attitude makes us wonder HOW????? Our librarian back home, I haven't even seen them ever talking, maybe its because "Silence is golden and blah blah.." or maybe because "Students are not talking material..". I can't imagine that people back home especially at our college think of it as some place out of the world, they should all come here and then probably they will realize how wrong their assumption is. Every person we met at the university is like this, starting from Programme Coordinator to the lady in coffee shop. With such an engaging, positive environment around, that's when innovation takes birth and not limits of download of 10/15 MB even for which one needs to get the rooms opened with a signed treaty (MoU) with security guys (who anyways spend the night sleeping). Is this how innovation and new ideas are gonna take birth, is this how research is done. The open minded nature of people here helps people of different countries, different branches of studies, different course work students to all come together and tackle one's issues. No barriers of project, competition for placements, better grades keep them away.!!
The blog that started off as a general feedback about "Welcoming Guests" has become a university bashing.!! Well, that shows I can narrow down my thoughts to what concerns me most. As my research paper on MDA had said "This is not meant to bash the claims of MDA, but just to do a reality check". Yes, its time for a reality check back home, its time that we look into ourselves and see where are we lacking, its time we retrospect what our core values are.!! I immensely do value my college back home, it truly stands out with other institutions spread across the country. My alma mater(almost) has been my launch pad for sure. I would never be what I am, if not for my home(IIITB), but if we can identify the small flaws, rectify them, add a human touch and combine it with utmost passion - we will become the best!! Students back home have the potential for sure, and no questions even about the faculty(among the world's best). Hope my college shows the way ahead and lead the country by example!!