Fate Took Me to India and to Many More Places

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Hawa Mahal in Jaipur.

For a lazy person like Ari Cipta Gunawan, little did he know that most of his, if not entire, life would change in the month of June 2017. Because from that moment on, he would be experiencing something that you would call “an adventure”–or so he thinks. It was all started with a thesis defence which ended quite satisfactorily despite being spiced up by some drama, up to the point where he had to choose between sticking to this new job he had just acquired or sacrificing that to get something that was still uncertain. He chose the latter and he was, is, not disappointed.

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In June 2017, right after I passed my thesis defence, I enrolled myself for an internship program held by Kementerian Pemuda dan Olahraga (Kemenpora) Republik Indonesia together with AIESEC Indonesia. The aim of this fully-funded program was to facilitate Indonesian youth to have internship experiences abroad. After the lengthy selection process, I was chosen together with the other 136 participants. Where would I be going, you ask?

Here, let me tell you more about it.

Oxford Public School campus, Morarkhera, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Oxford Public School campus, Morarkhera, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Daily assembly situation at OPS before the start of class.
Daily assembly situation at OPS before the start of class.

For the first twenty years of my life, I have never thought that I would be staying in India for a long time, let alone living and working there for almost a year. But it was all changed in October 2017 where I had to start my internship program as a teacher at Oxford Public School in Morarkhera, Uttar Pradesh, India, up until September 2018. The school is in a rural part of India, near the border of Nepal. If you are not familiar with the name of the place, worry not. Even many Indians are not aware of it. It is THAT rural, can you imagine? Luckily, I was not alone. I was there together with one fellow countryman and four fellow countrywomen.

On a daily basis, I was in charge of teaching science for students from class VI to X. Aside from that, I was also responsible for giving them weekly science practical in the science lab there. Please do not think “the lab” as a sophisticated one we will find in a modern and expensive school. It was practically a room with dusty cupboards, chairs, and some old science equipment. Calling it a “lab” is an overstatement.

Independence Day Celebration.
Independence Day Celebration.

On some “special days”, though, where the local teacher was not there, I was also responsible as a replacement teacher to teach another subject. I taught maths, geography, Hindi, and even Sanskrit. Yes, you read it right. I was teaching Hindi and Sanskrit, too. For the first two, I was confident because I like both math and geography. Thanks to the latter, I now have some basic knowledge of the Indian territory. For the last two, however, I was… dubious. I mean, who wouldn’t? I have no basic knowledge of Hindi or Sanskrit whatsoever.

But thanks to that, and to the experience of getting lost in a bus terminal with no English signage and no English-speaking people, I was made to have the will to learn Hindi. After three months of self-taught with the help of an Android app and tonnes of Q&A with my students, I was finally able to read and write Hindi. As for Sanskrit, I did not bother to learn it because the writing is almost identical and the only discrepancy it has with Hindi is the pronunciation. FYI, both languages use the same writing system, the Devanagari script.

Apart from working as a teacher, I also had the “luxury” of being one: the long school break. I had two weeks of freezing winter break, six weeks of scorching summer break, and a few days of break during several religious commemorations like Diwali and Holi. I used the opportunity to explore many places in India.

Qutub Minar in Delhi
Qutub Minar in Delhi.

On Diwali, my friends and I went to the capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, to visit our friends from AIESEC Lucknow. In winter break, we went to the city of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh and experiencing below zero temperature and seeing snow for the very first time. On Holi, we went to the capital city of Delhi, meeting some Indonesian friends who were also doing the internships in India, and having our first Holi celebration together. In summer, we went to explore the city of Jaipur–such an unwise decision because the city was scorched with the summer heat–where I continued my journey alone afterwards on an unforgettable life-changing experience of solo-backpacking across several cities in India and Nepal. Two months before my departure, we went to visit the majestic Taj Mahal and were awed by its grandeur–a must-visit destination for anyone visiting India. And finally, on my last few days there, I once again pay a visit to Delhi and visiting Mumbai for the first time before I flew back home.

Celebrating Holi in the capital city of the Delhi with fellow Indonesian interns.
Celebrating Holi in the capital city of the Delhi with fellow Indonesian interns.
The beauty of the Taj Mahal.
The beauty of the Taj Mahal.
The closer look of the Taj.
The closer look of the Taj.

Squeezing 355 days of story into a few paragraphs of essay is not an easy task, but it is the least I could do to introduce you to the often-overlooked country. If you think that working in India has never crossed your mind, then maybe you will consider it after you read this. Even two of my friends who were doing an internship with me in India are now back in the country doing another job because they say they fall in love with it. If they could, maybe you could, too.

Despite the fact that the program has now been discontinued, you might still want to check the selection process from how I enroll for the program up to the day of my departure on my personal blog (written in bahasa Indonesia) here.

As he suggested in the title of the article, the experience of working in India has brought Ari to many places. Not only exploring India and visiting Nepal, but it has also given him the opportunity to work in another country. You can find more detail, but the incomplete, story of his experience in India on his personal blog.

All photos are provided by the author.

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Ari is currently working as a Business Process Delivery Associate at Accenture Technology Solutions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After studying chemistry for six years and teaching science for almost a year, Ari opts to take a break from science-related field before pursuing his master’s degree in a field that has not yet to be decided as he is currently torn between food science, environmental engineering, and Mandarin language–odd choice, he knows.