The International Writers Magazine: India in Hacktreks

Reva Sharma

I call it the ‘something factor’. Any Indian who has spent most, if not all, of their lives out of India has been at the mercy of the ‘something factor’ at some point in time. The yearning to do ‘something’ for your country, to find that ‘something’ that makes you Indian, to justify the feelings of restlessness and lack of belonging, the feelings that you can’t understand but arise without fail whenever you see a news item about travesty in India, ‘something’ more than general discontent, but a sense of responsibility, the feeling that this could be me or my family, followed by a need to do ‘something’ to help.

It was this ‘something’ factor that led me to spend a summer in Mumbai working with slum children, I suspect it was the same ‘something factor’ that played a part in ‘name of intern’…decision to join the Indicorps...

My time in Mumbai was probably the single most influential experience of my life. Flying out to India clutching mental images of poor starving children, that we’ve all seen, I was soon stunned as my romantic vision of helping the poor and needy was replaced with awe, and an overwhelming respect for people making the best of a difficult situation, where there is scarcely enough food to eat. The poverty was very clear to see, these were undernourished children working in sweatshops, but the accompanying attitudes of enthusiasm, hope and optimism that the children universally possessed came as a huge surprise. Memories of poor families sharing their meals with me, someone they barely knew, showing unbelievable hospitality and zest for life, are embedded in my subconscious. The children’s bright smiles showed me more than ever that they deserve a better future, but more than that I realised that I was lucky just to be part of the team helping these magnificent individuals. I went to Mumbai expecting to help, little did I realise how much I would be helped. On the flight home, I made a silent promise to myself, that this would be the beginning and not the end.

Hearing about the Indicorps completely reminded me of that hope and passion I had felt, all over again. Before my time in Mumbai, the cynic in me would be reluctant to accept terms like ‘service for the soul’ and ‘believe in the power of one’ but at the risk of using another cliché: seeing is believing. Indicorps does not need flowery marketing; the chance it is offering to people like us is enough. To be a part of a project in India serving the community, living in the community, eating, breathing, living their lives, whilst having a chance to make positive changes, is a phenomenal opportunity. Offering diverse projects like ‘Water management’, ‘serving tribal groups’ to name a couple, this is no pseudo-challenge. This is the real thing. It will test you to your limits, probably at times be unbearably difficult, but what better incentive than the knowledge that you have changed lives, in many cases saved lives? No matter what direction your career takes; accounting, finance, marketing, you will walk around for the rest of your life knowing you have made a significant positive change to the lives of many people.

Help alleviate poverty, help bring education to poor children, help bring fresh water to villages, those are the ‘official lines’ but the truth is; do it for you. The true reward lies in the revelation that we have far more to learn from those in India than they have from us, our quest for modernisation and our submission to the western model of happiness have meant we do not possess the inherent humility and dignity that these Indians do, but the good news is by being in their presence we can learn it, and the even better news is: it will certainly satisfy the ‘something factor’.
Make contact with Indicorps here

© Reva Sharma March 8th 2006

See also A Walk in Dharavi Reva Sharma

Teaching India to Read - Reva Sharma

More Destinations here


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