A Trip to India

December 30th, 2010 | monica | Comments Off on A Trip to India

Although my trip to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai, India was almost a year ago, it feels like it was just yesterday. To numerous audiences, I’ve been actively sharing my experiences throughout the year, keeping it fresh and alive with each presentation. As I write this, some of my HR colleagues (40 in total) just arrived on a new adventure in China (sort of wish I decided to go with them). So early 2009, I accepted an invitation from The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), in coordination with the People to People Citizen Ambassador Program, to join 19 professionals from around the U.S., Canada and Jamaica, to participate in a life-changing and educational trip of a lifetime. Since Albert’s Organics sponsored a portion of my ‘professional development’ trip, it has been my mission to give back and share some of what I learned, so…I’m happy to contribute to our Blog, starting with some very interesting facts:

~ This ancient country declared independence from Britain in 1947 but the country didn’t open up as a market economy until 1991? So old, yet so new.
~ India is the second most populous nation in the world with 1.2 BILLION citizens (compared to U.S. 307 million).
~ Over 350 million are living in poverty and the number of poor is increasing (U.S. est. 39.1 million).
~ The median age is about 25 years (U.S. 36.8).
~ India has 14 official languages with 1,652 dialects…English is the major language of trade and politics and it’s taught as a first or second language in all schools.
~ Hinduism is dominant for about 80.5% of the population followed by Muslim 13.4% (3rd largest population next to Indonesia and Pakistan), Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, Buddhist .8%, Jains .4%, Baha’i faith and others .7%.
~ 72% of the population resides around agriculture and village activities.
~ The caste system, although illegal, still persists primarily in rural India (highest level: Brahmins – lowest level: Harijans or Untouchables).
~ In 1997, an Untouchable was elected President (Prime Minister and Cabinet has the real power, however, the President remains a very important figurehead).
~ The Taj Mahal was not built to withstand earthquakes; the India Institute of Technology Bombay is currently working on a project to protect the Taj. Let’s send them positive thoughts that they succeed!

It is near impossible to put into words, describing this land and people of astonishing contrasts. It is an eccentric, creative burst of cultures, color, relations, races and tongues. The people are warm, articulate and were so proud to share their country. The abundant sights, sounds, aromas and general life takes place by the roadside. During our several hour cross-country drive from Delhi to Agra, the views were life-changing. So vivid in my mind are the colors of India: trucks, cars and other vehicles decorated in flowers and other regalia; leis of fresh flowers placed around our necks when arriving in Delhi and Mumbai; bouquets of roses and other flowers decorating most of the companies and colleges we visited; their farms filled with bright yellow-flowered mustard crops (hand harvested), and purple basil with a great aromatherapy I’ll never forget. Also, the absolutely stunning Indian women clad in magnificently decorated saris and jewels, not excluding the laborers working in the gardens or fields.

Among an abundant of fascinating tours and visits included a trip to the ITC Green Centre in the city of Gurgaon. Meeting with their GM, we learned that ITC is the world’s largest “Platinum Rated” green office building. When it opened in 2005, it became the world’s largest completed LEED platinum rated office building, and has since, gone well beyond this point in reducing energy consumption by only using daylight. The building is carbon and water positive – if it uses 1 liter of water, it produces 3 liters. In July 2009, Secretary of State Clinton toured the facility and called it a “monument to the future.” A notable part of ITC’s DNA, as we learned from all of the organizations and universities we visited, is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Individual Social Responsibility (ISR). At the Welingkar Business Institute in Mumbai, CSR is taken to a whole new level. They use the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ approach in student projects focusing on finding an intersection between economic, societal and sustainable goals. With the size of India’s poverty, it was striking to hear how the country and leaders are seriously addressing the environmental issues and the challenges of its poor.

As far as India and the organic movement, I learned in speaking with several folks that they seem to understand the meaning of organic growing and consumption, but are not aware of the organic certification process. I met with the Trident Hotel GM in Agra who was proud to show me 9 acres of produce that they grow and use in their kitchen, utilizing organic, non-chemical growing methods. The elaborate and fragrant fare was beautiful to view and so delicious that I continue to crave it one year later.

Among the touring highlights that included the Red Fort built in 1648, Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, India’s Gate, one of the largest war memorials in India, The Gateway to India located on the waterfront in Mumbai, poignant visits to Mahatma’s Gandhi’s tomb and home (now a museum), the one that brought tears to my eyes was the Taj Mahal (meaning Crown Palace), a monument built over a 22 year period, completed 1648 by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Queen Arjum Banu. It boasts of stunning architecture of white marble and inlay precious stone, and represented an abiding love that will forever be embedded in my memory and heart.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of my India experiences. My wish is that many of you reading this have the opportunity to visit a country. It is truly life changing.