[INTRODUCTION] – I originally wrote this post at the conclusion of my traineeship with the Times of India in 1996, so if any facts are a bit out of date it’s because they are.
“Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”
It was about this time last year. I was chatting with my flat mate over a bottle of Margaret River Chardonnay when the topic of travel came up. He was planning to travel the world the following year, and as he was telling me of his aspirations, I looked over his shoulder to a picture of him posing the tourist pose in front of the Taj Mahal. It was at this point that I first thought of India as something more than some Asian country that plays cricket and likes a curry.
Not long after I took the plunge and applied for the International Traineeship Exchange Programme, a venture undertaken by AIESEC, an organisation which had been a part of my life for the previous 3 years. Here the big question arose… “Where do you want to go?” That was a toughie. Where in the world do I want to go? Let’s see. Scandinavia would be cool, and the Caribbean. Or somewhere exotic like Zimbabwe, no Brazil. All these places to choose from, all with a recurring theme. Different. A culture, a life different to my 23 years in Perth. Then I remembered the picture of Ben before the Taj Mahal. How about India? Yeah, that would be different. India.
I put in my forms for my traineeship, and in early December I received a phone call from my girlfriend at the time, who was attending AIESEC Australia’s National Conference in Adelaide. The first thing she said was “You’re going to India.” I could tell the concern in her voice as she said it. My Mum quietly freaked as well. She kept saying “Why don’t you go somewhere nice like Canada?” What’s the point of that? That would be just like staying here. I want to go somewhere different. Besides, India won’t be so bad. I can handle myself. This reassurance was as much for myself as it was for the people close to me. India won’t be so bad.
That’s a nice story, isn’t it?