Iris and Sherry’s Adventures Continue: Of Dragonflies, Cows and Amity University

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Last night it rained and for a short time, Delhi felt like Manchester. Only a short time though – when we went outside this morning, it was as hot as a sauna. Iris pointed out hundreds of dragonflies and she was delighted, as she said that they eat up all the mosquitoes.  We think they’ve done a good job, as we haven’t been bitten yet – or it could be the industrial strength Deet.
Gunjan suggested we walk to the MMU India Office this morning, which is only a five minute walk away, but first we had to fend off the incredibly keen and insistent tuk-tuk drivers! Iris dismissed them all and struck out womanfully, while I had a slight regret, being constitutionally lazy.
One slight problem was that the roads we had to cross were blocked by building works for the Delhi Metro. Luckily, Iris’s sense of direction was spot on and after a terrifying dash across a wide thoroughfare (see yesterday’s entry on Delhi drivers), we arrived safe and sound at the India Office. It was so lovely to see the friendly faces of Gunjan, Somnath and Rasna.
Soon we were joined by Shaguna Gahilote from the British Council; Shaguna has arranged all our school and bookshop visits. We all got to know each other as we went through the programme.
Later, I asked Somnath for his take on relationships between Great Britain and India, given the awfulness of colonialism.  Were there any resentments?  Not at all, he said. Indians concentrate on the good that came out of the British years like the education system, the contact with the West, the architecture and the trains. Now that modern India has an identity as a nation and a pride in itself, they are keen to communicate with other nations. The past is the past and to them, it’s all about moving on together.  Hear, hear!
Shaguna talked about the fascinating work that the British Council was conducting in Nepal, and the place of story when developing confidence and identity in children.
Then we were off to Amity University, a private university only 15 years old. It is situated outside Delhi in the township of Noida. On the way, I handed out my Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls to Gunjan and our driver and it struck us as a true example of cultural exchange.
Suddenly, Iris jabbed me fiercely in the arm. Look!  A cow! Indeed it was a cow; a holy cow which is allowed to wander the street unmolested.  We saw several others – well eight in fact, as Iris was counting, but I could have sworn she counted the same cow twice.We’re keen to see the real India so can you imagine our delight when we arrived at Amity and were greeted by a delegation of teachers who invited us to participate in a religious ceremony!  We dutifully poured oil, threw soil and spices into flames, whilst prayers were read out. The teachers and Professor could not have been more welcoming.  The university campus is spacious, modern and elegant, and, admittedly, rather more attractive than MMU’s Oxford Road campus!Inside, we were ushered up to a dais where our names had been displayed. We were given shawls and plants as gifts – Indian hospitality is the best!We gave a workshop on English as communication; we showed our audience how we use creativity to improve report writing, and we shared some good practices in writing emails and resumes.  The students were enthusiastic and produced some fantastic work.  The two hours sped by and then we were led away for tea and samosas. This place just keeps getting better.So, are Indian universities different to English ones?No – not fundamentally – teachers and students all have the same concerns. Only the dress is different. Oh, and the climate.Watch this space – the Ghummakkad Narain (Children’s Book Festival) starts tomorrow.  We’re raring to go! Sherry
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