a group project

Fort Golkonda, in Hyderabad
Fort Golkonda, in Hyderabad

Part 2 in a series, #returntoindia

I’m traveling with my wife and 17 university students—a fairly cohesive group by American standards. The group gels pretty well—going without hot water for five days is the kind of thing that brings people together.

Still, if someone is sick or tired they just want to be left alone. Everyone is solicitous but we respect their privacy and independence.

But then we spend a week in the dorm at Immanuel Business School and everyone there is a nurse. They hover over you. The days are filled with ceremonies and gatherings—impossible to escape. Nor would you want to—everyone is so generous and hospitable and kind.

But few decisions are made alone:

  • We are riding a bus to visit the Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad; five or six young men are talking about every turn in the road, checking with others on their cell phones about how to get there.
  • We are standing outside the train station in Kolkata after an all night train trip and four cabs drivers—waiting for the fifth to arrive—spend half an hour arguing about the best route to our hotel.

    Waiting for the fifth cab, outside Sealdah train station in Kolkata.
    Waiting for the fifth cab, outside Sealdah train station in Kolkata.
  • There is a Buddhist wedding in Darjeeling where we stay in villagers homes and everyone is invited—the Hindus as well as the few Christians. Arranged marriages after all, involve entire family and social networks.

Everywhere we go there is a collective consciousness that transcends our western individualism. Personal needs are sacrificed for group identity.

In India, everything is a group project.

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