African voices in India
Studying abroad – the traveler’s rite of passage, the student’s dream and the chance of a lifetime-one cannot pass it up for anything.
I could no longer see myself pursuing my studies in a small island. Yes, Mauritius was home and undoubtedly, a heaven on earth; but for once, I wanted to break into the adventurous world and learn from various experiences. Amongst my preferences were London, Melbourne and Dubai; but the very next moment would instill in me concern. Those were expensive choices and ultimately, the burden would fall on my parents’ shoulders. India thus, seemed to be the right choice.
I enrolled for my Bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communication in Apeejay Stya University, Gurgaon for the January 2015 intake after interacting with its representatives and having my queries attended to online, following which I was sent my admission letter and asked to deposit the fees in due time.
“4000 USD total- tuition and hostel fee to be paid for an Indian institution?” Having been briefed about the infrastructure of Indian universities by those who have already studied in India, I was quite cynical at first – fair enough, got to adjust. “Never judge a book by its cover”, they say. There must also be a good side to it.
India was not new; its spectacular mix of people, remarkable diversity and breathtaking landscapes were known to many. “We also have young students from all over Africa and India is a very nice country”, the management team said. It at least gave me hope about the future, as it did for other Africans. “I knew that the country had a lot to offer, its education system being acknowledged at an international level, so I was hoping for the best’’, Vlad Ventura, a 23-year-old BBA 1st year student from Angola”, told me.
The next step was getting a visa, and one usually builds up much anxiety over it. Fortunately, the Indian High Commissioner, was very kind to grant me a four-year student visa with multiple entry. Thanks to the ever growing friendship between the two nations. I started my preparations, keen to embark on a new adventure, set new career goals, embrace India’s playful unpredictability and demystify it through travelling and exploration.
However, India somehow tossed up the unexpected. On January 11, 2015, I was in incredible India, seeing cows roam around and children beg on the streets. The cab halted in a remote area along Sohna-Palwal road, in a not so vibrant campus comprising merely 500 students and buildings looking like they were built five years ago and since then, have not been maintained- Really? My second home for four years? Unbelievable! Wait, the worst is yet to come – the warden directed me tothe hostel room: four corners, two small windows, a single bed, a mattress and pillow, an almost broken wooden cupboard, a small wooden table (how do I even keep my books?) and a chair. The grey tiles looked like they were not cleaned for almost a decade – home away from home; was that so? The food in the dining was very spicy and unappetizing, I have to confess that it gave me runs for two weeks. The shock made my nerves frayed at one point.
A simple work seemed a frazzling epic for almost every African as the challenges were many. ”Indians have an inclination towards speaking Hindi throughout despite knowing that I am a foreigner”, said Theresa Ntamvutsa, a 1st year B.Pharma student from Rwanda. She further added “I also have to deal with unwanted attention simply because of my skin color. Racism is a major issue”.
There are many Indian mannerisms that can easily offend any foreigner. Luckily, I look Indian and do not face racism, but there comes a point when the need to shout the following out to people is strongly felt: Do we actually have to tell you not to spit? Please do not drive like maniacs. An African is also a human. Wearing shorts does not mean one lacks ethics. Having male friends is normal for a girl. A woman Can be a working professional.
The lives of Africans here can be described in just one line: Work hard, pray hard, do what you have to and do not care!
We leave no stone unturned in striking a balance between our professional, personal and spiritual lives. Our unity is indeed our strength. After five days of hard work, we hang out during the weekends in the big shopping malls of Gurgaon and crowded streets of Delhi (without proper transport facility though- we actually have to squeeze ourselves in overcrowded autos and Haryana Roadways buses with locals staring at us and passing comments in ‘typical Haryanvi language’).
Grabbing Mac Donald or KFC burgers, going for movies and ice skating at Ambiance Mall, eating gol gappe and jalebi, praying and spending our Sundays at Bethel City Cathedral in Sikanderpur; these have become part of our lives.
What makes this nation appreciable are the challenges that alter one’s views of the world and one’s place in it. It makes one realise that nothing comes easy and an individual has to be brave enough to follow their dreams. Coming to India was, for me personally, a blessing in disguise. It has given me a purpose in life and made me strong enough to stand up for myself and fight for what I believe in.