Lessons on Discovering Resilience, Diversity and Innovation in India

Having travelled across India for the past 17 days, I have developed many invaluable insights not just about this diverse and culturally rich nation, but also about the depths of my own character. The journey has been a revelation in many ways, teaching me about resilience, the importance of diversity, and also human innovation that extend beyond geographical boundaries. As I reflect on my experiences in this blog, I can’t help but draw parallels between the ethos of India and the potential lessons Aotearoa New Zealand could learn from their ways of being and doing. Read on as I discuss subjects like cultural richness, self-discovery, and much more. What I Have Learned About Myself: Touring Aotearoa for the past 17 days has significantly deepened my understanding and appreciation of the value of family. Despite already knowing that I am family-oriented, having such a significant amount of physical distance between myself and my family has heightened my appreciation of having them in my day-to-day life. This has emphasised to me the profound connection that having a family brings and really puts into perspective how lucky I am to have that companionship on a daily basis. Unfortunately, homesickness has been an unexpected companion, something which at the age of 27 I never expected to experience. For me, I recognise that this is due to predominantly being away from my children and fiancé, underscoring the importance of maintaining daily contact with my family as an ultimate form of self-care. I hadn’t fully recognised nor appreciated the importance of including and maintaining family connections into self-care until now; however, I have learned that it is one of the most important elements in building positive well-being. Furthermore, having unfortunately suffered from significant illness while being away from my family support system has been incredibly difficult both physically and mentally. I didn’t realise how much safer I felt dealing with health-related challenges when I was in their presence, nor did I appreciate the physical support and companionship my fiancé gave me during these tough times. I certainly have had to learn to be resilient and self-sufficient, even when I perhaps shouldn’t be. I am thankful for this lesson as it has increased my self-confidence. I know that if I can get through this by myself, I can get through anything that challenges me! While I am incredibly thankful for the support of the IndoGenius team throughout all of these personal challenges, the adversities I have faced while being away from my family have highlighted to me the importance of family and the centralism my family has in my day-to-day life and in my well-being overall. Navigating these challenges without them has reasserted that I am resilient and have real grit within me to get through any challenges I face, but it has also proved to me that I am so much better with my family by my side and the central importance they have in my life. Moreover, this experience has made me realise as a Bachelor of Social Work student that family support systems serve not just as a source of comfort for individuals but for many they also serve as a pillar of strength. They are a stabilising force that helps people navigate unfamiliar terrains and unexpected challenges that life throws their way. Without this support, it can be incredibly difficult and can impact personal well-being quite significantly. My own personal longing for home has become quite the catalyst for introspection and has prompted me to delve deeper into my values and beliefs, the essence of what home truly means to me, and how I can use these insights to guide my future Social Work practice. I look forward to using these newfound insights to ameliorate my practice, ensuring I provide the best possible guidance and support for my clients. What I Have Learned About India: India is so diverse! Traveling across India has shown me that no two Indians are alike. From appearance to behavior, cultural practices to beliefs, diversity thrives in India, making what I truly believe is one of the most diverse nations on Earth. The resilience exhibited by many Indians in the face of significant challenges is inspiring, and I believe we as Aotearoa New Zealanders have a lot to learn from them. Their commitment to cultural conservation, maintaining intergenerational practices, beliefs, and ways of doing so is inspiring as a Māori struggling with cultural displacement. It is awe-inspiring to see Indians grip so strongly to their beliefs and ways of doing, despite repeated attempts at colonisation. Additionally, India’s entrepreneurial spirit, from start-ups to street vendors, showcases the key innovative spirit of Indian people. Their desire to contribute both to society and to their families through innovative practices showcases their resilience and drive to improve their well-being and life quality overall despite many facing significant disparity and socioeconomic barriers. The warmth and hospitality of Indians are perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have learned while here in India. Indians are genuinely curious about others, and their friendliness is truly unparalleled. I have met so many people on my journey who are excited to meet a foreigner, and are very interested to hear about who I am as a person and where I am from. They have been very kind, caring, and welcoming to who I am. They get excited if I wave out. I have also been asked many times for photographs and to meet their children. There is something about Indian people who have the ability to make you feel welcomed and included no matter where you are. Delving deeper into the intricacies of Indian society and diversity, I have come to appreciate the nuances that go beyond the surface of India. It’s not merely the visible differences within India, but in my opinion, it is the rich and diverse stories, histories, and traditions of each area, religion, and even family units that make each and every Indian truly unique. The resilience I have observed while traveling across India is not just a societal or individual reaction to adversity either; it is a true testament to the profound spirit of Indian people and the underpinning history, values, and beliefs that influence them. The entrepreneurial spirit of Indians is honestly something that I never knew either. Since being in India, I have been privileged to meet with and learn about various start-up companies and non-governmental organisations, showcasing a strong, innovative side to India, which in many ways is world-leading – and yet, I had no idea about it! The innovation of Indian people extends beyond their mere economic endeavors, however; for many, it is a mindset and drive to help improve themselves, their families, and Indian society in general, pushing them above the post-colonial negative stereotypes and portrayals of India in the Western world, pushing them beyond the barriers of the socioeconomic statuses predetermined by outlawed caste systems that still impact many people, even today. What Aotearoa New Zealand Could Learn From India: India’s open hospitality towards others highlights the importance of fostering increased kindness toward immigrants and tourists in Aotearoa New Zealand. Xenophobia has been an increasingly concerning theme I have noticed in Aotearoa, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I believe as a nation we could do a lot better in showing kindness and hospitality to others. We can certainly learn from India’s willingness to welcome people with open arms, showcasing their culture with pride and actively getting to know visitors to their country. I believe back in Aotearoa, this extends to being hospitable and kind to those in our own communities who are different from us. The Te Ao Māori concept of Manaakitanga, showing kindness, hospitality, and respect, is something that we could all work on embodying for the betterment of all. The resilience of the Indian people in spite of adversity is something else we could learn. Following in the footsteps of Indian resilience could inspire a positive outlook in the face of Aotearoa’s current socioeconomic challenges (the post Covid-19 pandemic recession, high cost of living, housing crisis, etc.). I believe that embracing innovation, both on a large and grassroots scale, could propel Aotearoa forward both economically and socially. Indians are significantly determined to improve their lives and their socioeconomic statuses despite facing significant micro and macro systemic barriers and hurdles.To me, this demonstrates the impact of taking personal responsibility for our own well-being and striving to be resilient despite the challenges we face. Furthermore, Aotearoa New Zealand could benefit from further community development in the form of fostering and strengthening ongoing community connections. After witnessing the strong sense of community in India, I am honestly quite sad to realise the degrees of separation we see in Aotearoa New Zealand now. It is incredibly different from the Aotearoa New Zealand I grew up in in the 1990s and early 2000s, where face-to-face interactions with those in my neighborhood and community were not only important but they were valued and cherished. With the increase of social media and digitalisation, many people no longer know who their neighbors are or those in their community. I know I am guilty of this myself. The truth is that with the increase of social media and digitalisation, people are increasingly becoming individualistic, even those of us from traditionally collectivist cultures (such as Māoritanga), when in reality it is our neighbours and our communities who we first rely on for support during adverse times and events. We need to work on building these connections for the betterment of all in our communities, something which India does wonderfully. Reflecting on the open hospitality I have experienced in India, it becomes evident that it is not just a gesture but a way of creating a sense of belonging. Aotearoa New Zealand, already known for its friendly atmosphere, could further enhance the immigrant and tourist experience by underpinning interactions and meetings with a deeper cultural undertone and openness in sharing with others the underpinning cultural aspects and influences that make up the beautiful country. Final Words: My journey through Aotearoa New Zealand has been a journey of revelation, and has certainly, for me, been more than just a tour of the country. It’s a life-changing experience, rich and full of opportunities that challenge and inherently expand my worldview and perspective of Aotearoa New Zealand, its people, and the world in general. Learning about the diversity and resilience of the Indian people has altered my outlook on Aotearoa New Zealand, myself, and my community. It has especially helped to alter my perspective on different client realities and situations I am faced with in Social Work. As I return home, I carry not only some beautiful memories of my travels but also some significantly valuable lessons. I now have an increased sense of duty to my community and to humanity in general. I aspire to share the warmth, resilience, and innovation witnessed in India, fostering positive change for all. A special thanks to IndoGenius for providing these eye-opening opportunities across India, and supporting me throughout despite my challenges. A special thanks to Education New Zealand for providing me with the opportunity to change my life and providing support throughout my journey. A special thanks to my fiancé and children back home for holding down the fort, supporting me throughout the journey, and making it possible. Finally, a special thanks to myself, for choosing to show up and for choosing to continue to show up, despite it being so easy to give up. Despite it being so difficult and challenging in parts, I’m here. I’ll continue to be here. I look forward to seeing what the future journey has in store for me. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy everything that India has to offer – culture, knowledge, and of course delicious food! 😋