Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: India

2017 Photo Contest Winners: Unforgettable Moment

Category: Unforgettable Moment 

1st Place:

Name: Polluting the Ganges with Sins
Photographer: Emma Chelsvig
Location: Varanasi, India
Program: World Internships
Description: Each day thousands of Hindus journey to the holy (and heavily polluted) waters of the Ganges River to cleanse themselves of their sins.

2nd Place:

Name: Through Binoculars
Photographer: Tiffany Luehrs
Location: Xixi Wetlands, Hangzhou, China
Program: China Study Center
Description: When I went bird watching for my biology class, I noticed how the binoculars made a perfect circular frame every time I focused on a different part of the wetland. I decided to take photos through the binoculars and was surprised at the results!  I made this collage with a few of my favorite images from the day.

3rd Place:

Name: Dear Porto…
Photographer: Jewan Attallah
Location: Porto, Portugal
Program: French Language Immersion Semester
Description: The photo represents my personal love for Porto.

2017 Photo Contest Winners: Sense of Place

Category: Sense of Place 

1st Place:

Name: Descending to Ascend
Photographer: Emma Chelsvig
Location: Varanasi, India
Program: World Internships
Description: Locals and Indian tourists flock to the ghats in Varanasi where they bathe themselves in the Ganges’ holy water.

2nd Place:

Name: We Have  Seen the Light
Photographer: Savannah Jorgensen
Location: Florence, Italy
Program: England Study Center
Description: Florentine people celebrating

3rd Place:

Name: Nymphenburg Palace
Photographer: Kostadin Pendev
Location: Munich, Germany
Program: Reutlingen Summer Engineering Program
Description: The Nymphenburg Palace was built from the 17th to the 19th century for the Bavarian royal family. Behind the palace, there is a garden that is 88 square miles.


Hidden Gems

Author: Emma Chelsvig

Location: Chennai, India

Perhaps this has been the most striking facet of India for me. During the final two weeks of my time in India, I traveled to the north with my parents.  New cities brought plenty of new challenges—challenges which would first lead me to search for a sense of normalcy.  But just as I did in Chennai, I found myself sinking into each city that we toured.  With an open mind and help from local guides, my habit of judging things at face value subsided.  New dimensions of the cities were revealed, and I witnessed a portion of the depth that is found in India.

On our first day in Varanasi, my family and I blindly walked through the alleyways that run along the Ganges River.  The narrow and dark alleyways twisted and turned like a labyrinth, only to display a new set of shop keepers, residences, and cows that looked identical to the ones around the previous corner.  The alleyways were incredibly disorienting.  Furthermore, they buzzed with blankets of flies and reeked from cow patties that lay scattered along the cobblestone pathway.  However, within 24 hours, Varanasi had me hooked.  In the dingy alleyways were these nooks that were bustling with life and notable activity.  If you were to turn the correct corner and peer past a rickety wooden shutter, you would see a man weaving a sparkling silk sari on a hand loom.  Around the next dark corner might be a man sitting cross-legged on a ledge with a large metal cauldron before him.  Peek inside the doorway beside him, and you would enter into this man’s quaint café that sells the city’s tastiest handmade lassi.  While the alleyways initially overwhelmed my family and I and provided us with uncertainty, they soon exposed the wealth of incredible life that exists within India.

A similar experience occurred in Delhi.  My parents and I walked through the hectic and tangled mess of Old Delhi.  The narrow streets were crammed with parked scooters, vendors frying up samosas, rickshaws holding their snoozing drivers, and pedestrians navigating around the traffic.  But tucked away in a deserted corner was an underpass.  A guide led us through this pitch-black passageway—one that only locals would be able to find—and after walking through, it we emerged onto a series of thriving alleyways.  The alleyway that we entered onto held shops that were selling intricately adorned fabrics to eager women.  Here in these alleyways, we arrived at yet another dimension that existed.  Who would have thought that another layer of life was thriving within the hectic roads of Old Delhi?

In India, there have been constant surprises—it never ceases to amaze.  When I first arrived I was bombarded with noises, odors, and colors whirling around me.  Now that I have journeyed to multiple cities in India, I have learned that the country is even more intricate and multi-layered than it presents itself to be.  Hidden in dark and forbidding corners lay passageways that open onto bustling lives.

A Chennai-an Roller Coaster Ride

Author: Emma Chelsvig

Location: Chennai, India

Within an hour upon landing at the airport in Chennai, India, I was quickly swept into the Indian lifestyle.  I had hopped into an Uber car and had my first experience of India: driving.  Driving in countries may often look different from that of the U.S: the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car, and the movement in lanes is reversed.  However, the roadway experience in Chennai is beyond your typical set of differences.

In Chennai, there are no rules of the road.  Or better yet, there are rules…but no one follows them.  The lines painted on the pavement are simply decorations.  Drivers swerve around one another and weave across lanes and incoming traffic.  Cars, scooters, and autos do U-turns at their leisure.  Heaps of vehicles cram their way forward.  Everyone is going in every which direction.  Occasionally there are stop lights at intersections, but whether the red light actually means “stop” is still a mystery to me.  Sometimes drivers do stop, but other times they do not even question the color of the light—they just go.  

And surrounding this utter madness is a plethora of additional action.  Few roads have usable sidewalks, so everything utilizes the road.  Pedestrians crisscross here and there.  Cows leisurely shuffle down the street.  Dogs jaunt through the traffic.  Street vendors peddle their carts down the center of the road with coconuts in tow.  A cement truck that is working to form a new building’s foundation protrudes into traffic.  Parked vehicles jut from the edges of the roads, therefore pushing all of the action into an ever more crowded space.

My first experience of Chennai’s roadways felt like a roller coaster.  It was exhilarating, but I was pleased when it was over.  But like many excitement-hungry kids, I was ready for another ride.  What drew me in to this chaos?

Perhaps it is the intimacy that this rule-free driving promotes.  While each driver is determined to arrive at their own destination, each one is also highly aware of all of the action that surrounds them.  Life on the road does not feel as sterile as it does back in the U.S.  In the U.S., we are engaged more so with the rules of the road rather than with the people that surround us.  In Chennai—where the rules are not followed—a more aware and tightly-woven community is created.  It is a constant give-and-take relationship where drivers and pedestrians observe one another’s motives and alter theirs to fit into the puzzle.  

I have found there to be so much action in Chennai and so much to take in, but my experiences as a passenger and pedestrian have heightened my awareness and connectedness with the Chennaiites.  Perhaps I tell myself this to provide a reassurance that I won’t die each time I step onto the road.  Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing how Chennai—and India as a whole—will continue to challenge my perspectives on life.

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