Today we had an early breakfast because we were about to explore some India outside Bangalore. For some of us early breakfast was a challenge, since most of us went out for Indian-style dancing last night, in order to celebrate Danielle’s birthday.

By Olga Verbeek

At 8:30 our bus headed out. It took 1,5 hours just to get out of one of India’s biggest cities, but then I finally saw some countryside and natural landscape of India. Some parts were really beautiful, but – more than I expected- the countryside seemed also pretty crowded. Apart from people, cows, many little shops and banana trees, I unfortunately also saw much garbage. This is something we see in the city of Bangalore too. After Henk Manschot’s lecture about the necessity to become more conscious about (and consequently reduce) the amount of waste we produce, this scenery saddens me. However, I am actually writing while drinking water from yet another plastic bottle and realize that I am part of the problem.

After a few hours, we arrived at a small public primary school. This school is supported by a learning centre which in turn, is supported by the Azim Premji Foundation. The centre helps to improve the quality of learning materials and teaching skills. After a brief introduction, the children welcomed us with songs they had prepared.

Thereafter we went to Azim Premji’s District learning centre ‘headquarter’ for a presentation about their mission and activities. This office serves as learning centre for teachers from the district and as research centre. The main aim of their research is to map and analyse the impact of the learning centres on the quality of public schools.

After that it was time to head off to the Royal Palace of Mysore. While the Indian landscape passed by, my neighbour on the bus told me about the colonial and postcolonial, cultural and political situation of Zimbabwe. For me, the most interesting part of this summer school is undoubtedly the many conversations I have with fellow participants. It enriches the theory with personal experiences and  does justice to the complexity of the world we live in. It often strikes me that, although we come from such different backgrounds, we have so much in common at the same time. I have come to see that the summer school is a very good example of pluralism itself; by sharing our different backgrounds, respecting them, and learning from each other at the same time, I believe we can be examples to our nations in how to live with differences.  

At the palace we were ‘greeted’ by a different side of India. Children, women and men were quite aggressively trying to sell us souvenirs, fruits and postcards. ‘No thanks’ didn’t have the effect I hoped for. Some kids and women were begging for money or food. Being on this summer school, thinking about social justice does sadly not also automatically dissolve all inequality. The poverty in the parking lot formed a striking contrast to the splendour and wealth of the Mysore Palace. Nevertheless, being herded through the palace with a crowd of fellow-tourists was an impressive experience.

Finally, we headed to our hotel, then visited a Catholic church modelled on the Dom of Cologne, walked around a dodgy Mysore by night, had diner and slept like baby’s after a long but interesting day.  

Olga Verbeek studies for a master degree at the University of Humanistic Studies in the Netherlands, specializing in Humanist Counselling