Incredible India. That is the name of the well known marketing campaign to promote tourism. I must say, that name really does live up to what India really is. From the unbearable heat to the tongues of lilting grace to the song-and-dance culture to a simple man’s perspective of happiness, my time spent was worthwhile.
From March 31 March to 11 April 2012, ten of us stayed in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, in India. We were all from Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) club in Singapore Polytechnic. Before we flew to India, we, as an innovative student group, came up with business initiatives and concepts to improve the lives of the villagers living in a small village called Sukka Vali.
I shall not go much into the nitty-gritty details of our business initiatives but let’s say all of us were eager to win this year's SIFE nationals with our ideas. Considering the fact that SP has been consistently winning the national competition for years, we could not bear to lose.
Our mindset started to change when we arrived on Sukka Vali’s soil. Heads of young children would pop out as we walked past their houses. The village was gifted with beautiful scenery; it was nice not being bounded by tall buildings for once. The presence of dust in young April’s air was strong but how could anyone pay attention to that with the merciless sun beating down on our pampered skins?
Children playing around the heart of Sukka Vali. Photo by Hanafee Ghazali
Learning palm-weaving together. Photo by Hanafee Ghazali
Winning the competition became secondary when we saw the plight of the villagers. They had to live in houses made of cow dung. They had a poor excuse of a roof in coconut leaves that did nothing to prevent their house from flooding in a rain. I was taken by their minimalistic but unconventional lifestyle.
Most of the villagers were struggling to make ends meet by doing odd jobs that pay minimum wage. The children were mostly child-labourers who wanted to provide extra income and they did not have educational opportunities.
I realised the main objective of SIFE – it was not to win the competition, but to really help those in need. These people were the friendliest beings I have ever met; they greeted me with such warmth and kindness. They did not deserve to live like this.
I asked if they were satisfied with their lives and most of them said yes. This made me realize what is really important in life. These people were living simple lives, never tasted Starbucks, never a Facebook user and unlike us, they don’t find their answers from Google. They have all they need right beside them – family, a simple shelter and kindness.
No matter how much they suffered from their financial setbacks, they managed to find happiness in the simple things.
Gathering the villagers together. Photo by Hanafee Ghazali.
I really do hope that we, as a SIFE team, will improve their lives. I am thankful that I was brought to a world seldom seen.
SIFE SP team. Photo by Hanafee Ghazali
Anginn May, Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media