Day 18 of the International Summer School on Pluralism, Social Change and Development in Bangalore, India, Sunday 24th of July 2016

By Aman Verma

I have to put into words the last day of this splendid summer school. In that new-found spirit of solidarity, all of us will testify to the difficulty of this task. Reflecting back, sitting comfortably in my room back home in Delhi and sipping tea, I feel something is certainly missing, something I can only look back at with hindsight. In this last blog, I will tell you about the last day: a vibrant microcosm of shared knowledge, friendships and emotions.

The summer school was about learning to live with difference. An idea of ‘difference’ which not only includes the idea of tolerance, but also a positive and overt assertion of respect for every human being and for planet Earth. The lectures followed by intense discussions were our blueprints for looking at the world. The group activities and the presentations showed us how to assimilate difference and use it to our advantage. Everyone had stories to tell, experiences to share and insights to enrich conversations. We discussed, debated and brainstormed on themes ranging from ecology and globalization, to reconciliation, identity and democracy.

Back home in our respective countries, our ways of life are completely different from all those we met at summer school. It was surprising to see how everyone adapted to the relatively harsh environment in India, particularly in terms of weather and generally spicy food. But at the grand luncheon and dinner tables, we spoke the same tongue, ate the same food, discussed the same problems and melted into each other’s world’s as if there was nothing to tell us apart. Every moment of the summer school bore an impression of the knowledge and values gained during the lectures.

To put it more dramatically, the summer school represented a utopian world, where we interacted in more than one way and developed bonds which transcend dimensions of time and distance. It was this very feeling which also brought out the pain of leaving on the eighteenth day. The vigour of the friendships is young enchant and eyes were reluctant to hold back the tears.

We celebrated Karen’s birthday, our dear friend from Zimbabwe, on the eve of 23rd July with the celebrations stretching well into the morning of the 24th. As a result, many of us woke up late, skipped breakfast and ventured into the bazaars of Bangalore, shopping and lunching together for the one last time. Surbhi and Sabeela were the first to leave. Andra’s letters, the chirpy dimpled bespectacled woman from Romania, written separately for each of us, touched everyone’s heart. The Africans were the next to leave, and then the Indonesians and myself. The Dutch left the next day. To see our friends take with them scores of traditional Indian attires, accessories, souvenirs (and of course memories) and their attempts at learning the local language and customs was in itself a paradigm of inclusivity and understanding.

With newer understandings, we branched forth like tributaries into our respective countries. A lot of old does flow in us, but our values and identities merge into the same oceans from whose depths we derive the strength to enliven our young visions for the distinct societies we come from.

Aman Verma holds a BA LLB (Law) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Noida, Delhi in India and has completed a number of internships in Law firms across India. He plans to pursue a Master in Public Policy in the future