It’s Not Easy

FYI: this is a long and oftentimes scattered post. I’d still love for you to read it. Just letting y’all know. I debated a lot with myself as to whether or not I wanted to post this. It has sat in my draft box for quite some time. It went through numerous revisions. Still, I don’t think it’s remarkable writing. I’m not sure if it accurately depicts what I want it to. It’s messy and offers a wide array of emotions, not usually reserved for one sole post. Each paragraph is like a different story (feel free to take breaks and come back later to finish reading it 😅). I go back and forth between present tense and past tense. Despite it all, I’ve adopted a “YOLO” type of reasoning for posting this. Also, it turned into far more of a story about pizza than I expected. Without further ado, here it is in all of its glory.

What’s not easy, you might ask? Well, practically everything about being here. And that’s okay. I didn’t expect it to be easy. Nor should it be. Through adversity often comes the most rewarding of times. Just as Prince Ea (a rapper) says, “Struggle and criticism are prerequisites for greatness…” While greatness, varying in its definition, is never guaranteed, knowing that I’ll undoubtedly struggle along the way certainly puts me one step ahead towards achieving it.

Now, my two months of time spent here obviously pale in comparison to things like study abroad, exchange programs or even military service. It’s apparent that there are far more strenuous and difficult situations. Nevertheless, an adventure that someone experiences and how it makes one feel along the way is entirely relative to one’s characteristics, past exposure, encounters, outside influences, and timing. So, it’s not necessarily easy for a wide-eyed, novice traveller from smallish-town Iowa to explore the depths of India on his own (don’t worry, I’m never literally alone).

Something particularly interesting (and certainly not helpful to my confidence at the time) is that, during the course of my first few weeks here, I would tell colleagues that India is the first country I’ve visited outside of the US. Their reactions were always surprise and, perhaps, even a tinge of pity. I presume they can’t fathom that such an inexperienced traveller can handle the complexity and craziness that comes with India. With time, I garnered the exposure that makes their reactions totally reasonable. 😅 India really is, to quote a colleague, a “dive in the deep end” when it comes to travel. Its people, culture, impressions, and environment gobbled me up whole in the first few weeks. I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. Even now, it’s not easy. It’s a challenge, but one that I’m increasingly excited to take on every day.

Contrary to my prior beliefs, culture shock is real. Naively, I didn’t really expect it to be much of a thing for me. 😅 But, oh boy, was I wrong. There are a lot of factors of culture shock. The environment, people, food, music, weather, social norms, etc. Despite how similar people are, no matter where one is in the world, it’s the slightest variations in behavior or preference that seem to be cranked up ten notches on the “what the hell is happening” meter. The sudden emergence of a cow in the restaurant in which you’re eating can yield a similar feeling. Not until I was three weeks into it all did I genuinely feel accustomed to everything. Of course, there are fluctuations on the culture shock curve and I tend to bounce back and forth quite dramatically. As time goes on though, these bounces between “get me away from here” and “wow can I be here forever” tend to diminish in extremity. I’m thinking that by the time I leave, I’ll have an unwavering, gentle love for the differences between my home and this place.

Making matters worse towards the beginning was the uncooperative feeling of homesickness. To be truthful, I never thought that I would miss home as much as I do. Home is, quite honestly, where the heart is. It’s the people more than it is the place. I’m not sure I realized until now how much I rely on the immediate availability of friends and family. Much to my family’s avail, I crave their presence in my life. At the same time, I’ve learned how to candidly prosper and navigate obstacles on my own (a priceless skill).

What I think I’ll remember the most from this adventure is the triumph and exploration that came with it. I’ll learn the most from the moments when I felt the least capable, but ended up surprising myself. Just as Amelia Earhart says, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

The audacity to travel around the world and simply be here is a decision that, in and of itself, makes it all worth it. Everything else is just icing on the cake. With that in mind, I’m trying to remember that everything is temporary. Accordingly, I’m doing my best to make the most out of it.

While I won’t detail all of the emotional stress I’ve undergone, I felt compelled to write a post like this to properly put into words the entirety of this adventure. I wanted to post this weeks ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to write about emotions that were far too real at the time. Fortunately, I’m now able to discuss it in a “happy-go-lucky” manner because, believe it or not, I’m starting to love India. That opinion might change tomorrow, but for now, I’m at a peak of acceptance on the culture shock curve. 😄 Either way, I relish in the power of vulnerability and thus, letting y’all know what this time feels like to me is beneficial.

Take the other day for example. I found it difficult to enjoy a single meal. In fact, in the moment, I hated each meal. I didn’t eat as much as I would have liked because other than rice and roti, I couldn’t stand some of the ingredients in the other foods. By the end of the day, after having hoped after each meal that the next would be enjoyable, I had eaten primarily hard boiled eggs, plain rice, plain roti, and some cucumber and onion. I felt so disheartened. I kinda wanted to tear up at dinner upon seeing food I wouldn’t enjoy, for a third time that day. Even slightly angry. How on Earth could every meal be so lackluster and unsatisfying?

Later in the evening, it hit me. I started to cry because I realized I went the entire day silently complaining to myself about how unfortunate it was that I had to endure meals that I didn’t absolutely love. I felt ashamed for even having had those thoughts. Regardless of taste, I had three meals that day. Just like I do throughout nearly every day. In front of me at breakfast was tea and hard boiled eggs full of protein. At lunch and dinner, there was a boundless amount of rice, roti, cucumbers, and clean water. I neglected to remember how blessed I was. Maybe I do have a right to complain a little. Maybe I needn’t think about the struggles of others all of the time. Regardless, taking any of this for granted, like I did, is the wrong move.

On a more lighthearted note, I want to tell you about one night in which I got really, really annoyed. Yea, I know. It sounds super lighthearted, doesn’t it? Ok. It was during the middle of a day last week when I began to crave pizza. Any type of pizza would have sufficed, but I especially wanted Pizza Hut at the time. Lucky for me, there are Pizza Hut stores nearby that deliver. I went to the Pizza Hut India website and began to plan my elaborate order for later in the evening. At this point, my mind was made up. I let Ram, the cook, know that I wouldn’t be at dinner.

Another intern decided to join in on the brief hiatus from the typical Indian dinner. We began to add items to our online cart at 6PM. This is where everything started to go awry.  After having filled out the delivery and contact info, I clicked on “cash on delivery” as a payment option. I did this several times after each attempt resulted in a frozen page. (You should know that for some awful reason, our credit cards aren’t accepted anywhere online here, so it wasn’t an option.) Eventually, my friend got it to load and we had received an email confirmation! We would pay with cash and our pizza would be here in 30 minutes! I was so excited (you already know this doesn’t end well). After about an hour of waiting, we called the Pizza Hut store. Despite receiving an order number and email confirmation, they had no record or recollection of our order. They ended up hanging up on us, perhaps foreshadowing further difficulties. It was 7PM at this point and I was in no mood to deal with that incompetence. The “hangry” emotions were setting in (for my less hip readers, “hangry” is the term for when someone becomes quite irritable because they haven’t eaten in a while).

For the next hour and a half, the two of us attempted to order from Dominos, a seemingly more courteous company. Our attempts at card payments, cash payments, and phone calls were in vain. By 8:30PM, we had settled for two leftover “bread omelettes” (AKA egg sandwiches) that had been in the fridge for at least a week (tasted fine 😂). I ate one of the three granola bars I had remaining and called it a night.

Nevertheless, I persisted. Just as Winston Churchill would say, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” 😄 The next day, I began to fantasize again about the possibility of having ooey, gooey, cheesy pizza, despite the demoralizing failure of the previous day. I bypassed Pizza Hut’s website because I didn’t trust that they would deliver food even if the order placement was successful. 🙄 Thereafter, my first attempt to order Dominos online that day went like this: cart was full with garlic bread, pepperoni pizza, and dessert. The problem of the previous day was that neither of our American phones could receive an authorization code from Dominos to confirm the option of cash on delivery. Therefore, I asked one of the cordial interns that has an Indian phone if I could enter their phone number to have the code sent to their phone (I do use a borrowed phone with an Indian number while I’m here, but as with just about everything else in this story, it didn’t work for pizza). This way, I’d finally be able to pay with cash. After 10 minutes of waiting to receive the text, we gave up on this method.

Next, I called the restaurant by phone. You would think this would be fairly easy. You would be wrong. After at least five minutes of trying to decipher words through each other’s distinctive accents, the Dominos employee hung up on me. A fellow intern came to the rescue and called right back on my behalf, offering some sparring words in Hindi for their lack of effort in taking my order. She went on to calmly and helpfully order everything I had in my online cart. I was extremely grateful.

The pizza arrived as scheduled and I paid with cash. The spread of immaculate food was a beautiful sight for my hungry eyes to behold. A moment later, I received a text from the intern friend that let me use her phone for the attempt at online ordering. Can you guess what it was? Dominos had finally sent the authorization code needed for online ordering…More than an hour after entering the phone number. I couldn’t help but laugh and smile throughout my FAAANTASTIC meal. 😁

As a wise and caring friend reminded me, always remember to breathe and feel blessed.

I hope it doesn’t need mentioning because I think it’s fairly obvious, but despite the moments of melancholy throughout this post, know that I am entirely grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and all that it encompasses. I love my project and I continue to learn new things every day. By no means am I a victim, rather a total beneficiary of the World Food Prize and its remarkable program. It gives students with little experience being abroad, if any, and plops ’em right down to truly be engulfed in all that the world has to offer. That’s part of the reason why it’s so special. It’s a scary way to learn, but it works in remarkable ways.

Dr. Norman Borlaug knew exactly what he was doing when he established the many youth programs of the World Food Prize. His five principles, as mentioned once by M.S. Swaminathan, denote, what I believe to be, the only five things Borlaug-Ruan interns, like myself, need to remember: “Give your best; believe you can succeed; face adversity squarely; be confident you will find the answer when problems arise; then go out and win some bouts.” His wisdom, tenacity, and spirit inspire so many young (and old) people around the world and I couldn’t feel more blessed to represent his legacy.

This post was a convoluted mess (just like me), but I’m proud of it. 😅 Thanks for reading. I plan on writing four or five more blog posts with the time I have left. Stay tuned. Peace and blessings.

 

NICK BATTLES

What I Do

6:30AM

My days at SMSF usually start at about 6:30AM when I wake up in my on-campus flat-let. Or, at least, that’s when my alarm blares its repetitive and piercing siren. I don’t usually muster the motivation to leave my bed until 7AM. I then attend to all of the routine and often mundane tasks of getting ready for the day. Music usually helps me add some fun to the beginning of the day. You can bet your bottom dollar I’m jamming out to “How Far I’ll Go” from the Moana soundtrack on a daily basis. 😄 That aside, by the time I brush my teeth, apply insect-repellent lotion, “make” my bed, organize my backpack, and grab one of my antimalarial pills, it’s time to head downstairs, outside, and around a corner to reach the cafeteria for breakfast.

7:30AM

Laxman and/or Ram, the flat-let caretakers and cooks, usually have breakfast prepared by the time I arrive. If not, I just sit and wait for a few minutes until it is. I’m usually accompanied at breakfast by a fellow intern who happens to be from Iowa State University and majoring in what I’ll be majoring in (Global Resource Systems)! Two other interns from a university here in India are also staying on campus until the end of July. They typically don’t make an appearance until 8AM. Breakfast is, by far, my favorite meal. Maggi (popular brand of ramen noodles), eggs (boiled or over-hard), toast, papaya, grilled cheese, paneer “hot pockets”, and/or cucumber & tomato sandwiches can often be found at the table during breakfast time. I always have my bottled water to drink, but on most days, chai (tea) is given to us. It’s rather sweet. On a rare occasion, strawberry milk or iced coffee is prepared. When finished, I take my dishes to a pre-wash area and rinse ’em off to help out the wonderful people that work here.

8:00AM

I often head back up to my flat-let for the next twenty-five minutes to either catch up on the happenings of good ole social media or read (I don’t often read during this time, but it makes me feel better about the way I use my extra 25 minutes if I mention it – don’t judge me).

8:30AM 

Office hours start at this time. The distance from Sehgal Foundation’s office space is just shy of 150 steps from the entrance to the flat-let building. I must say, it’s a pretty gnarly walk to work. On most days, I sit in one of the conference rooms with my laptop, a notebook, pen, folder full of data and important info, and often a book. As of late, I’ve spent quite a bit of time analyzing the data I’ve collected from field visits and interviews with farmers. This task often coincides with time spent researching articles pertaining to my topic of micro irrigation and its status here in India (more specifically, the rural district of Mewat). Recently, I’ve been organizing my data by creating graphs and composing a written analysis of my findings. All of this is leading up to my final report and presentation that I’ll give on my final work day at SMSF.

Of course, I’m not always cooped up doing office work. On the days that I complete interviews or focus group discussions with farmers, we usually leave the office around 9AM and arrive to a village by 11AM. In addition to the driver, I’m accompanied by my translator and usually a field staff employee of SMSF. Congregating a group of farmers willing to sit long enough to be interviewed can be a challenge, but the efforts have yielded some good data, thus far. During an ordinary field visit, I’m frequently treated as a special guest. For some, I’m the first American they’ve ever seen. The staring doesn’t phase me as much anymore. I embrace my role as an “alien”. 😁 On occasion, the farmers will bring out coca-cola or mountain dew. I do my best to oblige despite my distaste for pop. We’ll frequently leave between two and three in the afternoon in order to return to SMSF before the work day is over at 5PM.

11:00AM 

If it’s an in-office day, I begin to fantasize about lunch around this time. Grabbing a latte from the office’s incredible all-in-one coffee machine ties me over. I don’t like to drink it often, but having it once every other day serves as a good pick-me-up throughout the week.

1:00PM

Lunch is served in the cafeteria until 1:30PM. It consists of the typical Indian cuisine (rice, dal, roti, cucumber & onion, vegetable).

3:42PM

The work day is almost over at this point. I’m dragging myself to the end. Don’t get me wrong, my research can be captivating. Nevertheless, eight hours in an office chair can be a bit unremarkable.

5:00PM

At this time, I walk the 150 steps (yes, I counted) back to my flat-let and frequently take a nap or hop on my phone like any other youngster would. As my time here quickly progresses however, I’m reserving more of my time for reading the few books I’d like to finish before I leave.

7:30PM 

Now, I’ve either woken up dreary-eyed from a two-hour nap or I’ve realized that it’s dinner time after getting lost in the depths of YouTube cooking tutorials.

7:45PM

I have reached the cafeteria, yet again. Generally, we have a meal similar to lunch. Other times, a delicious fried rice recipe or terrifically spicy noodles are served. By any means, I feel very lucky to have such lovely meals during my time here in India.

8:08PM

Let the countdown to bedtime begin. I try to hit the hay by 10PM, but as evidenced by the time I’m posting this, I don’t always do well reaching that goal.

10:??PM

By the time I feel tired enough to doze off, a cold shower has taken place, I’ve hopefully read part of a book, I’ve started a draft of a blog post, and I have thoroughly journaled about my day. I do make a sincere effort to write in my personal journal as well as a separate gratitude journal where I list ten things that I’m grateful for that happened that day. Just one day has gone by where I didn’t do those two things (I think a plethora of debilitating flu-like symptoms was good enough reason to skip a day). Anyhow, I would highly suggest that anyone and everyone write in a gratitude journal/regular journal once a day. There are a bunch of intelligent articles as to why it’s good for you, if you don’t trust me.

With that, I think I’ve rambled on enough. Thanks for reading. And for those interested in seeing photos, I promise more will be up soon. Maybe. Peace and blessings.

 

NICK BATTLES

USA! USA! USA!

The Fourth of July is my fourth favorite holiday. I’m not going to elaborate on my reasoning for it being my fourth favorite holiday, but I thought the sweet-sounding coincidence of having the “Fourth” be my “fourth” favorite holiday would entice you enough to read this post. If I have garnered your attention in any way up to this point, I encourage you to continue reading for an account of the unique way in which I celebrated Independence Day!

Contrary to what the title of this post might suggest, there was no chanting of “USA! USA! USA!” at the celebration I attended. Nonetheless, there was a plethora of American-style food and beverage that more than satisfied my desire for a taste of home. I had an “Ultimate” cheeseburger (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, & ketchup), french fries, a slice of old fashioned apple pie, and chocolate-dipped ice cream on a stick. Every bite of each item felt life-changing. Now, I’m not sure if the splendor with which I enjoyed the food was due to the actual cooking or if it was due to my hiatus from American food. Either way, I had a FAAANTASTIC time eating all that my heart desired.

I went with two fellow interns. All of this took place at the ACSA (American Community Support Association) portion of the US Embassy in New Delhi on Saturday, July 1. I would venture a guess that it was on July 1 for either safety reasons or because July 4 was on a weekday. It was an event solely for US citizens and security was tight. I felt fairly special, if I’m telling y’all the truth. There was even a big ball field (I presume they play games during other events) where a stage was placed, chairs were all over, and the cooking/food was adjacent to the field. By the time we arrived, the rain had brought everyone inside, including the band. The food was still outside amongst the humid, 115 degree heat index, but that area was covered. They had their priorities straight. PROTECT THE FOOD!

After traversing the complex and exchanging my INR (Indian rupees) for food and beverage coupons, I found the party room. There was good, live music (“Sweet Caroline”, “New York, New York”, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Sweet Home Alabama”) and an atmosphere that instantly made me incredibly happy. It was the same kind of instant happiness that comes when I’m at the Iowa State Fair (I know only a few of you will understand where I’m coming from). Although the rain petered out the possibility for fireworks, that atmosphere made up for it.

After thoroughly enjoying ourselves, I pulled out my handy-dandy American flag and posed for some hunky-dory photos (what is up with my vocabulary right now??). I’ll add those to this page soon. All things considered, it was a special and wonderful way to celebrate our Independence.

Later in the week, on July 4, some employees at the foundation wished me a happy Independence Day! It was rather unexpected, but it gave me a real sense of pride. I don’t know if that’s strange or not, but I felt PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN WHERE AT LEAST I KNOW I’M FREE. Sorry, it’s in all caps because I read it to the tune of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” 😂 Anyway, I thanked them and thought to myself that the Fourth of July may just have to move up a couple of spots on my list of favorite holidays. So, I did exactly that. I moved it up past Thanksgiving for it to claim the fourth spot. It made for a great blog excerpt and a well-rounded post. 😁

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more. Peace and blessings.

 

NICK BATTLES

Work Worth Doing

If you have thoroughly read my “About” page, you would know that the research project I’m doing here at the SM Sehgal Foundation is titled, “Comparative Study of Micro Irrigation: Present Scenario, Adoption, and Future in Mewat”. I don’t know about y’all, but I get excited when reading that title. I tend to love the idea of in-depth research that covers a specific topic over a period of time. Lucky for me, that’s exactly what my project consists of.

Quick side story before I talk about my current project: When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote a seven page research paper on the topic of malnutrition in India. It was a combination of assessing the current situation, identifying problems, and suggesting solutions. That paper/essay was what led me to the Iowa Youth Institute (IYI), Global Youth Institute (GYI), and now, in part, to this internship. I can’t help but remember, rather vividly, the months of research put into that one paper. Although the time it took was probably strung out further than it needed to be, it was rewarding to hear one of the roundtable moderators at the GYI refer to my paper as one that resembled a college dissertation. This moderator was a professor at Purdue University and although his suggestion was probably made more in jest than in seriousness, the compliment certainly made me feel good (after I looked up what a college dissertation was, of course😄). That compliment and the subsequent discussion with other students made all of the time and effort worth it. Throughout the entire process, I learned an immense amount of information about a topic I had previously never thought about. Despite a few corrections I would make today, I remain proud of that research I conducted as a sophomore.

I wanted to mention that paper I wrote a couple of years ago because the process, the result, and the pride that came along with it are all things I hope to encounter with this new project. I want to find helpful data and come to useful conclusions. All research takes time and perhaps the most exciting part of it (some may argue with me on this) is when you’re right in the middle when you have no idea where the research is leading. Nevertheless, in my experience, it all seems to come together in the end (amidst my optimism, it’s probably important to note that my experience is relatively little😉).

Even more satisfying, and by far the most important, is the application of your results. Far too often, labs and research institutions and scientists studying food insecurity or water scarcity or good rural governance or empowerment research and draw stagnant conclusions. Yet, the active and meaningful role of implementing these solutions, these ideas, and these hands-on necessities is hardly ever brought to fruition. If all we do is research the topic of rural poor in India and yet do nothing to lift them out of poverty, what good does the research do? It’s a question Sehgal Foundation has thought a lot about. That’s exactly why the Sehgal Foundation is, in all that I’ve seen, a group of people and initiatives that sincerely work at transforming lives. They empower villagers through good rural governance, transform village lives with good water management, and assist rural farmers through agricultural development. Now, I sound a bit like a spokesman for the foundation, but in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen the good that this foundation has done in the close-to-twenty years of its existence.

I mention the goals of Sehgal Foundation, because it’s my job as a research intern to hopefully provide useful information to the foundation that they can then use to best pursue their endeavors and help implement agricultural solutions like micro irrigation. To be specific, I’ll be looking at the reasons why some villages/villagers decide to adopt and use micro irrigation (drip or sprinkler irrigation) while others don’t. Hence, the “comparative study”.

In preparation for field visits, I have designed a questionnaire to be used for focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with farmers. I’m not so sure it would interest y’all (the readers of this blog) to tell you the questions, but feel free to ask me all about specifics of my project by sending me a message in the contact form or commenting below if any of it intrigues you. You can also just wait for when I post a synopsis of my research when the end of my time here rolls around. When I complete my report for the World Food Prize Foundation, I’m sure I’ll share that on here, as well. After all is said and done, I’ll hopefully come up with research and reasoning that assists SMSF in doing its best work.

OK, at this point, you’re probably wondering, “When is this guy going to mention ‘Work Worth Doing’?! He has to mention it because it’s in the title!” Well, hang on for just a minute, buckaroo. We’re getting there. Here we go.

It’s daunting. It truly is. I could sit here all day and share with you the gut-wrenching statistics like one that states 795 million people around the world are undernourished (FAO). The country with the most undernourished people? India. I can tell you that as of 2016, 29% of India’s children under the age of five are underweight (in the US, it’s 0.5%) (Economist). The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) for every 1000 births in India is 48 (in the US, it’s 7) (UNICEF). With all of that said, I can also tell you that the 795 million mentioned above was 962 million just a decade ago. That 29% was 44% in 2006 (World Bank). The U5MR for every 1000 births in India was more than 100 a decade ago. Progress is being made. Through all of the disheartening statistics and complex challenges, people are making a difference.

I’ll be honest, though. All of the impact that people have as individuals whether they be in the government, an NGO, non-profit, for-profit, the World Food Prize Foundation, or Sehgal Foundation slipped my mind. As the entire office staff at SMSF drove two hours to the rural district of Mewat (a district that has fallen far behind in progress and development) for Foundation day, the view became progressively more discouraging. I saw lifestyles I had only seen in photos. I saw children in situations that I can’t imagine as being ideal for health, sanitation, or development. I felt helpless. I couldn’t fathom how my measly abilities could help. I felt little motivation. After all, “a bad future doesn’t require anything of us today,”(Tomorrowland). As people with wealth, position, or power, it’s simple to accept bad circumstances around the world as unchangeable because that notion requires us to do nothing. On the other hand, effort is required to create a good future for our world and its people. It can feel painstakingly slow. It can feel as though there’s no endpoint. And it can sap the incentive from you when seeing the difficulties up close (or quite the opposite).

I did some thinking after the trip to and from Mewat. I went into my Google Drive and found the one-page essay I wrote about why I wanted to be a Borlaug-Ruan intern. The following two sentences are how I ended that essay:

“As Theodore Roosevelt would say, ‘Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ There would be no greater honor or prize than to work diligently and unequivocally at the work that is, by definition, worth doing.”

I soon realized that no matter how small my contribution, no matter how trivial my interpretation of the situation, my efforts will add something. I’m not willing to accept a bad future just because it requires no effort. The effort is worth it. With any luck, I’ll help add to the improvements of statistics like those mentioned prior. I know that if my time here, whether it be directly or through SMSF’s future work, is able to positively impact the life of just one person in a difficult situation, it’ll be worth it. Just like Theodore Roosevelt said, it’s the prize of a lifetime to work hard at something worth fighting for. Let me tell you, first-hand, that this is work worth doing.

I know this is a somewhat vague and broad post, but I hope you enjoyed reading it. I promise I’ll get into more specifics of my time and experiences here in a jiffy. Hang tight. Peace and blessings.

 

NICK BATTLES

First Time Out of the United States

When someone describes the traffic in India, you’ll probably hear them say something along the lines of, “bumper to bumper” and “all over the place”. To my surprise, that appears to be unequivocally true. Now, I had admittedly seen photos of Indian traffic prior to my arrival. In the photos, you can see cars, auto rickshaws, regular rickshaws, and bikers often all over the place with seemingly no organization. Let me be the first to tell you that the google search images don’t lie. During a traffic jam, I find it unbelievable that anyone is able to move at all. Lanes are seemingly nonexistent when there’s a lot of traffic. Although, people do use turning signals every now and then.

Even more startling, yet somewhat reminiscent of bad drivers in the US, most drivers here choose to brake only upon reaching the minimum amount of distance required to stop. I’m not sure if the Indian style of “finding every nook and cranny to pass the person in front of you” gets you to your destination faster than the American style of organized rule following. 😄 Either way, it’s a point of interesting contrast that I’ve found humorous, at times.

Before I experienced this driving madness, I arrived at the New Delhi airport. I arrived shortly after seven in the evening and there was hardly anyone in the place. I expected far more “hustle and bustle” for the second largest city in the world, in terms of population size. But, don’t you worry. Reality of the big city sunk in as soon as I left the airport terminal. I was greeted by my driver in a separate area, but when I stepped out of the terminal, there were hundreds of people, presumably waiting for people arriving. The heat, humidity, and haze hit me like a smack in the face. There was an odor that I can hardly explain. We made it to the parking garage and began to embark on our journey to the SM Sehgal Foundation campus in Gurugram, India.

I was submerged into the realities of Indian traffic and night life. At first I was annoyed at the use of car horns, but I realized how necessary they are when passing other cars. Of course, horns are used to tell the car in front of you to go, but more often than not, they’re a necessity for telling cars around you that you’re passing or need room or you’re too close to someone else. Seat belts are also rarely worn. An employee here at SMSF jokingly said, “[Indians] think [they’re] invincible”.

Outside of the airport, I saw a part of the city that seems to truly define the typical Indian city. An Indian man I sat next to on my near-fourteen hour flight said that I would notice how different cities are organized than as seen in the US. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what he meant. I soon understood the ways Indian cities seem to just boom in a short time, leaving small and desolate buildings next to modern high rises. I’ve seen quite a few abandoned buildings that seem to have simply halted construction. Even the city of Gurugram, I’ve been told, was nothing more than a village twenty years ago. It’s now a city of close to one million and busy business, but is still home to abandoned buildings, dirt lots, and disorganized city planning.

That night was certainly overwhelming. I admit, I thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” However, I made it through the first night! The facilities here, whether it be the office space, flatlet (dorm), or cafeteria, are all top notch. Food made by Ram (the cook) and Laxman always tastes phenomenal. I will say that I don’t really know what any of it is, but the typical lunch or dinner consists of rice, dal (usually meant to mix with the rice, I think), roti (tortilla-like bread), and a starchy vegetable/potato mix accompanied by a plate of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Ram even gave me a mini Snickers bar at lunch yesterday. I immediately started craving every candy bar on planet Earth. It was so enjoyable. It was one of those moments where you take a bite, close your eyes and savor it. You never knew how happy a Snickers bar could make someone, huh?

Food aside, I adjusted to the time zone much quicker than I thought I would. In part, I think the twenty-four hours of travel and little sleep made it extremely easy to fall asleep once I made it to my flatlet a little after 9PM, coinciding well with the time zone. Today marks my eleventh day here, but I thought I should let y’all experience my arrival with me. I hope my account above gave you some sense of what my leaving the United States for the first time was like.

I realize this post may feel a bit lengthy, so if you’re still reading down here, I applaud you and thank you. If you want to learn more about my time here in India, stick around and perhaps subscribe by email if you’re so inclined. Feel free to check out my photos seen on the right side of this page (if you’re on a mobile device, keep scrolling to see my photos)! Peace and blessings.

 

NICK BATTLES

A Work in Progress

This blog is a work in progress. For those of you following along, I don’t think it’s too difficult to figure that out. Just as the blog is a work in progress, so is my internship and project here in Gurugram, India. Additionally, my adjustment to India is a work in progress. Just as the battle for food security, good rural governance, water management, and agricultural development is a work in progress in many places in India and around the world. I think it’s particularly obvious at this point that I chose the title of this post because there are a lot of goals to be worked on and that are destined to be reached, yet simply need time to be worked on.

Generalization isn’t always good, but I think the majority of things, people, and places are always a work in progress. Things grow, people change, places develop. Throughout my nearly two-month stay in India, I look forward to working on the goals of the S.M. Sehgal Foundation, the needs of those in need, and on myself. I intend on experiencing growth that I couldn’t fathom if I were to not be in India. I’ll put my best foot forward in creating a positive impact for those around me. All the while, I’ll make by best effort to create a blog that’s worth your time to read and worth mine to remember. Keep in mind, it’s all a work in progress.

 

NICK BATTLES