“The India Experience”: E&EM Students Travel to India.

By: Laura Verduzco

In May 2005, E&EM doctoral student Laura Verduzco traveled to India with a group of current and former GW students. This is Laura’s story:

My roommate is a Hindu GW student who was born in Bangalore, the I.T. capital of India. To follow Hindu tradition, he accepted his parents’ wishes and consented to an arranged marriage. He got engaged in November 2004 and got married in May 2005.

A group of current and former GW students (including me) decided to take the wedding as a perfect excuse to visit India. We all traveled from different places. I flew to India via Frankfurt and landed in Chennai (formerly Madras), a beach city in the eastern shores of the country, which is the fourth largest in India. In Chennai, I had the opportunity to visit a crocodile farm and some of the most ancient temples in India. After Chennai I flew to Bangalore, where I met with friends who came to India for the wedding from Germany and the U.S. Before the wedding, we took a three-day tour of the important sightseeing spots near Bangalore.

During the trip we realized how different life is in that part of the world. The roads are really bad or non existent, and it took us half an hour to drive 10 km and four hours to drive only 200 km! Driving in India is really difficult, streets are narrow and crowded with people and animals, and honking when you pass another vehicle is almost mandatory, so the level of noise is very high. There is a lot of air pollution, which is mostly emitted from old buses and thousands of auto rickshaws (three-wheelers), and there is garbage everywhere.

The food is fantastic, there is a very wide variety of dishes, mostly vegetarian, that vary from state to state. Most women wear beautiful sarees every day and adorn their hair with garlands. There are billboards everywhere advertising the latest Bollywood movie, which is the most profitable industry in India. You can see cows, camels and elephants on the streets pulling carts with goods and people. There are several official languages in the country, but a large percentage of the population speaks English, so communication is usually not a problem. The most practiced religion is Hinduism, in which there are thousands of gods and goddesses. People eat with their bare hands, and in the south is common to use a banana leaf as a plate. The best part is that everything is very cheap; you can eat a great meal for two or three dollars and stay in a very decent hotel for twelve dollars a night.

The wedding was an exciting experience, it lasted two days and it was attended by one thousand people, give or take, the women wearing their best sarees and the men wearing suits. There are only two seasons in the year that are considered auspicious in India to get married, one is in May ( India’s hottest month) and the other one in November. If you go to India during either season, you will see lots of weddings everywhere in the country and every state has different wedding traditions. My friend’s wedding was in a hall that looked like a theater and everything took place on the stage, while the guests observed from the audience. The first day of the wedding was dedicated to small rituals and picture-taking sessions, and it was not until the second day when my friend got married and literally tied the knot, and I say literally because the wedding became official when he tied a necklace around his bride’s neck.

 

A few days after the wedding we flew to Delhi, where we started the tour of the golden triangle, Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. Delhi is one of the cleanest cities in India because the government has mandated that all auto rickshaws and buses have to convert to natural gas and pass strict emission tests every month. Delhi is more international than the rest of India and most people speak English. Agra is well known for the Taj-Mahal, which is an impressively beautiful mausoleum that a king built for his queen. Jaipur is also known as the pink city because the former king decided to paint the whole city pink, which was the favorite color of the king of England.

Going to India was an amazing experience that I would recommend to everybody. My advice for those who decide to go is to try to skip the hot month of May, drink only bottled water and bargain hard.

 


Jonathan P. Deason, Ph.D., Lead Professor


The George Washington University
Engineering Management & Systems Engineering Department (EMSE)
Environmental & Energy Management Program (E&EM)
Fall 2005 (Volume 6, Number 2)