India, Day 7 - Sunday Youth Meeting and Indian Students
My first week in India drew to a close as the monsoon rains increased in the region where I was staying. The water rose visibly throughout the morning, and our neighbors worried increasingly as nearby streams rose and threatened to invade the bottom floors of every house in the area. Uneasy as we were, the show had to go on, and we proceeded across town to conduct the weekly Sunday youth meeting. There's something incredibly special about hosting an event for kids and knowing that you helped elicit such big smiles in an area of such poor living conditions. India is a hard place in which to make a living. The adults work hard, and the kids do too. In a life marked by repetitions of school, work and poor living conditions, the kids had these two hours on the weekend set aside just for them with music, dance and a message of encouragement. I loved being a part of it.
Incidentally, it was at this time that I first became aware of just how seriously the Indians take education. The lives of students were discussed quite a bit in the talks we gave to the kids, because, more than ever, education is important. In India, where the population is unbelievably dense and competition for employment is unimaginably high, education is the key to upward mobility. Stereotypes about computer nerds and engineers aside, specialized education in a white collar industry is a very real priority to Indian students who are serious about upward mobility. Those who take their education seriously put their American counterparts to shame. Of course, there is also the opposite extreme: many kids don't care at all, and are content to stay in the station in which they were born. These two extremes are very visible, and I saw very little middle ground. Overall, the level of dedication that students put into their studies continued to impress me as I traveled across India.