One of the debates surrounding how the program is planned is how much “structured” vs. “unstructured” time students should have. We have had jam packed days — breakfast at 7:30, class from 8:30am-5:30pm, dinner at 5:30, and then many nights we spent writing blog posts. Before we left for India, many of us had to cram our pre-departure classes into our already jam-packed school schedules. Plans to hang out with each other were thrown around, but most time of they never made it out of the group chat.
On our last full day in Mussoorie, we were granted one full free day to explore Landour and Mussoorie on our own time. A few of us decided this was a great time to visit the Landour Bakehouse, a coffee shop that I had personally been wanting to visit for the whole month but couldn’t find time to go. While the pastries, tea, and coffee were great, what I remember the most amount the time I spent there was the how pleasant the conversation was with my peers. The “school” part of the leadership program at Hanifl was over, so there was no pressure of grades or evaluations impacting our interactions with one another. Through these conversations, I got to know my peers better on a level I had been craving for but hadn’t felt I reached yet. I felt the same way after having an impromptu deep conversation with Hannah and Eli in the attic as I was painting my nails. We talked discussed our evaluations, how the trip met our expectations and how it didn’t, and some of the things that were the hardest. As I said goodbye to go to bed, I jokingly apologized for this being the first time that we talked like this on the trip.
For better or for worse, I take most things in life pretty seriously, relationships with others being one of them. As a result, I am often surrounded with a small group of very close friends than a large group of acquaintances. This strongly relates to the Gallup strength Relator, which lies in my top five strengths. Seeing how much I appreciated the informal time to get to know my peers on a deeper, more personal level, I can see strong relationship building being part of my leadership style. Not only does it help me feel a deeper connection to those around me, but it also functions as a way to build trust as these kinds of informal interactions encourage authenticity and honesty. Another positive benefit of taking the time to getting to know your team on a one-to-one level is that you get to know their background. This can be beneficial because allows you to understand more about where others are coming from and why they may react in a certain way. Furthermore, when people realize that they can trust you on a deeper level, they may feel comfortable talking to you about more serious matters without feeling judged.
When we got back on the road again to Delhi on the 28th, we were back to our jam-packed schedule. This time around, we took the train which was an experience I really enjoyed. The next morning in Delhi, we visited a Sikh temple that Vipul often use to go to with his father when he was a child. It was sweet to see Vipul show us a part of his childhood but also really interesting to learn more about the Sikh religion since my knowledge of it beforehand was extremely small. Sikhism is the fifth most practiced religion in the world and what was most impressive to me was how the temple not only functions as a place of worship but also as a place of giving. The temple holds a dining hall that can hold up to 30,000 people and provides healthcare services that the public can benefit from regardless of their religious background. After, we visited some shops which I took a break from because I started to feel sick from the heat. Wanting to avoid my trauma of throwing up in the Vatican from heat exhaustion, I bought a Fanta and took solace in the air conditioning.
In Agra later that day, we dined at a restaurant that showed another act of benevolence. The restaurant was called Sheroes which was run entirely by acid attack victims. In not only the East, but also in the West, many people still prefer and prioritize males to females. Since these prejudices still remain in cities and in rural India, many women have become survivors from acid attacks for not bearing male children, refusing sex or marriage, and some survivors even stated there was no reason for their attack. Many of these cases of extreme violence against women have gone unreported for years, but awareness has slowly spread across India, resulting in over the counter acid being banned by the Supreme Court. Sheroes gives acid attack survivors a new life by providing them with employment and support, both things that their attackers tried to take away from them. The experience was eye opening, heart breaking, and inspiring.
Early the next morning, we visited the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Out of the two, I actually found Agra Fort the most interesting because it changed as each Mughal King rose to power and showed India’s cultural diversity through the fort’s myriad of different architecture styles. In one building there was a mix of both Muslim, pointed arches and Hindi, elephant shaped arches, something our guide said was extremely rare to see.