There and Back Again: Delhi and Agra

I had mixed feelings about leaving Mussoorie and spending time in Delhi and Agra. On one hand, I was excited to see new places and experience urban life again. On the other hand, I knew that these cities would be much more crowded, suffocatingly hot, and make me anxious. I was also sad to be leaving the mountains and knowing that the journey home was rapidly approaching.

One of the first things we did in Delhi was visit the market so we could shop for souvenirs and other items for ourselves and our family back home. I found a few interesting items there, but I also found that the open-air markets can be stressful. Everyone was fighting for our attention and trying to get us to visit their stall. Despite the chaos of it all, I really enjoyed being there and getting to experience shopping at a bazaar.

After the market, we went to get lunch and experience “Indian style dinning”. Not only is the food different, but there is a strong emphasis and expectation that everyone shares their food with each other. Personally, I was a huge fan of this concept because it meant that I could try a little bit of everything and not feel like I was missing out. All of the food was amazing, especially the palak paneer and the dosas.

After experiencing Delhi, we left for Agra and to see the Taj Mahal the next morning. We left our hotel very early in order to ensure that we could beat the intense heat. It was still hot when we left, but a beautiful clear morning otherwise. I was glad that we had a tour guide with us because I knew very little about the Taj Mahal before going to visit. He gave us a very detailed overview of it, especially about the marble and stonework. I was impressed that the intricate designs along the walls were made from semiprecious stones such as malachite, lapis lazuli, and onyx that had be carved and inlayed into the marble. After touring the Taj Mahal, we had breakfast at the hotel, loaded our luggage into the bus, and left to see the Agra Fort. It was a beautiful compound and also had a rich and interesting history that our tour guide taught to us. However at this point the heat and weariness of waking up so early was starting to distract us from listening as closely as we should have been. Despite the conditions I enjoyed the tour, but was certainly relieved when we boarded the bus again to head back to Delhi and prepare for the journey home.

In the last few days, I have had plenty of downtime while traveling between places. This has given me time to recount and reflect on what I have learned about myself and leadership. I noticed clear differences in how others approached leadership, and how people responded to various situations. I noticed that some people wanted direct control over projects or when leading the group, whereas others were happy to delegate or allow group members to openly share and discuss ideas.  I did notice that most people, including myself, would also employ a variety of strategies based on the criteria and intensity of the task at hand. Many people in the group were also great at practicing peer leadership or sharing the role of leadership. After a few days, even the outdoor novices began to jump ahead on completing tasks as soon as a campsite was picked out. I was impressed with how quickly the group pitched tents and set up equipment for making dinner without much instruction from the designated leaders or guides.

 I also reflected on how I contributed to others’ success and to the group overall. I often tried to follow the ideas of the days designated leader in order to promote a positive group environment. However, I did speak out on occasion if I believed that their idea was counterproductive or very ill-advised. When I did speak out, I tried to suggest my ideas in a positive manner and not be too confrontational with others. I also tried my best to set an example for others since I was one of the more experienced outdoorsmen and I had a sense of what tasks needed to be done around camp. I really tried to set an example of peer leadership and be a mentor for others, especially the two people in my tent group. I was really glad to see that by the end of the trip they could even help correct my mistakes! It felt good knowing that I had played a role in helping them become successful.