India: My Kaleidoscope

Emily Brothwood​
King’s College London, UK

Michelle Zoe Duffner

Perhaps it would seem obvious that a country of 1.34 billion people and 1652 languages would be diverse. Perhaps reading that India has over 2000 ethnic groups and that only the entire continent of Africa exceeds the linguistic, genetic and cultural diversity of the country of India would make this diversity clear. But, while these facts are staggering, I don’t think it is until you have tasted the spicy and the mild; seen the bustlingly loud cities and the serene rolling tea fields; browsed among the rainbows of sarees and navigated the piles of rubbish on the streets; and watched as two Indians who each speak four languages must communicate in broken English as it is the only language they share: can you even begin to understand the diversity of India. And that truly is just the beginning. Scraping away the layers of India’s diversity is an honour and a struggle, one that can lead you through discomfort, illness, sadness and guilt, but will always end in love, admiration and passion – at least in my experience.

What has brought me to this country this time around is an 8 week paid internship with Infosys Bangalore, where I have been working in the emerging trends department, researching technological trends in healthcare. I have worked with interns from all over the world from Australia to Romania, all fantastically smart and keen to explore all India has to offer. Many interns here study computer science and have taught me things about technology in the back of a tuktuk that has totally blown my mind, while with others I have discussed their entrepreneurial start-up plans over one of Bangalore’s infamous beers. There is much to learn from India, but the opportunity to learn from such a diverse group of students must equally not be overlooked. Stepping outside the campus bubble into Bangalore with this assorted collection of interns brings a new dimension to the experience of visiting and understanding India that I certainly have found invaluable.

After a week of hard work, many interns choose to explore beyond the Infosys campus and travel by bus, plane or train to the endless fascinating places in India. The next Monday as you scroll through the shared photo folder or take a look on Instagram you will be greeted with images of one friend’s toes in the sands of Goa’s beaches, another cautiously posing next to a monkey at a temple from the 7th century, another boasting views of tea fields from their treehouse stay while another poses next to a line of tequila shots in a rooftop bar in Mumbai. It is truly possible to find the experience you want in India. I have never been anywhere quite like it before and I do not expect to. India is not a country that can be ‘ticked off’ one’s list. There is always a new experience to be had, new people to be met, new foods to be tried – a place I do not believe it is possible to be ready to leave.

There are many things I do not like about my own, very small, country and it would be unfair to be blinded by my love for India and glaze over the fact there are many things that I do not love about India’s diversity. It is most definitely not easy to see children asking for food and money or walk past families in slums - a feeling intensified by the backdrop of stunning hotels. It is not pleasant to see a stray dog hopping due to a broken leg or missing a part of its face, and it is not easy knowing that a caste system systematically puts down groups of people because of the family into which they were born. All of these things are not easy to get over and only too easy to forget when the rest of India’s sounds, smells and colours hit you square in the face. But it is worth saying that this other side to India’s diversity should not be ‘gotten over’ and should never be forgotten as this is an important, albeit less positive, part of India’s diversity.

Now on my third trip to India perhaps you’d think I’d have an understanding of India’s diversity or be ready to say goodbye for a while once my contract comes to an end. But I learn something new every day. I learn about another King and their powerful rule, I learn another story from the colonial rule I was never taught in school, I learn that it truly is possible to fit one more person on the back of a motorbike. India never bores me and it always tests me. India has made me cry and smile and dance and laugh like nowhere else. I know I will never be ready to leave, and that I will always be ready to come back.

Emily is going into her final year at King’s College London studying BSc Global Health and Social Medicine. During her time at university she has been heavily involved in social enterprise and is very interested in pursuing this passion through starting her own social enterprise in the future. After graduation, Emily is interested in working in public health and policy and is currently working in the Infosys Centre for Emerging Technology Solutions in Bangalore doing research into the future trends in healthcare technology. Emily has a great love for India with this being her third visit and she hope to one day to work here full-time!