The Discover India Program at Rai University, Ahmedabad exposes students to people from different cultural, religious, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds and in so doing provide the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of diversity in the world wide. Today, we live in a big, beautiful, diverse world. Many are fortunate enough to travel and see different cultures. They have experienced for themselves the opportunity to learn from the people whose unique cultures are ways of life. For those who have not yet seen other cultures outside India this programme is a blessing.
Day – 1
17th February, 2017 a student delegation comprising ten students, headed by Prof. Martin Farek – Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts & Philosophy, Head of the Department for the Study of Religions arrived at Rai University, Ahmedabad campus in the morning. On 24th February, Rai University welcomed the academic (staff) delegation from University of Pardubice. We were delighted to have Prof. Tatiana Molková, the Vice-Rector for Internal Affairs, Prof. Jana Holá, Assoc. Prof., the Vice-Dean for Research and Development at the Faculty of Health Studies, Prof. Libor Švadlenka, Assoc. Prof., the Dean of the Jan Perner Transport Faculty & Prof. Viktor Prokop, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economics and Administration.
On 17th February, at the arrival of the student delegation, they were warmly welcomed in a traditional way by students of Rai University. It is true that treating “Atithi” (guest) with respect is a part of Indian way of life. After the welcoming, the delegation checked into the dorms. The students were in an “awe” seeing their rooms decorated in a customized way especially for them. After a small rest, all moved together for exchange of currency, which was followed by lunch. Post lunch, all took good rest.
In the evening, Prof. Shraddha Mavani prepared ice-breaking & team bonding interactive session for the group in which the selected four students from Rai University for assisting in organizing the program were also a part. This is one of the best parts of an international exchange where students get an exposure to a new language; understand different backgrounds and perspectives on life. The group got an opportunity to gel amongst each other as well as with Rai University students. It certainly was a beginning to a great friendship. After the session, all enjoyed some snacks. Then in the lounge some more artistic students were waiting to apply ‘mehandi’ to the group. It was a great gathering which had Czech music in the background, talks, sharing and in a way a celebration of culture.
The day ended with dinner and much needed rest for the group.
Day – 2
When you say “Yes” to Yoga, you live a life where anxiety stays at bay. The best of life are just an effort away when you resolve to work to be your active self, absolutely in shape both physically and mentally. Yes, that is the absolute power of Yoga. On 18th February, the morning began with Yoga for the group. The session was headed by Dr. M.R. Qureshi. After the session, the delegation moved for breakfast and had some time to relax.
In the second half of the morning, the delegation had an appointment to meet Dr. Kartik Jain, Provost, Rai University, Ahmedabad. Dr. Jain warmly welcomed the delegation. The delegation had a nice talk, introductions, sharing of expectations, etc. over coffee with Dr. Jain. They also met functional heads of various other departments at the University.
After a hearty lunch, the group had some leisure time in the noon. In the evening, it was time to get introduced to the traditional Indian Outdoor and Indoor sports. Prof. Aniruddh Sisodiya, Head of Sports & Student’s Welfare at the University took charge for the same. “Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi” was in the air with cheers in background for both the hybrid teams involving Czech and Indian players. It took less time for the Czechs to understand and learn the ropes of the game. They were amazed to learn about Kabaddi World Cup and also about the fact that India triumphed the Kabaddi World Cup for six consecutive times. It is truly a game where India has ruled. The Indoor games included Carom, Chess, UNO, playing cards and Table Tennis. In the course of playing indoor games, the group mingled really well with the Indian students. It surely broke down all barriers for inter-cultural communication. The day ended with great talks over dinner between the Czech and Indian students.
Day – 3
“(Founder) Guru Nanak said that if you want to meet God, serve the poor people.” Gurudwaras around the world variously incorporate clinics, schools, guest quarters and community centers, which Sikhs say is a sign of the religion’s values of service and equality. Unfolding another aspect of the Discover India Program, ‘learning about a new religion’. The delegation visited Gurudware Sunday morning and attended the kirtan. A senior member from the committee at the Gurudware welcomed the delegation before all and also briefed them about the world’s fifth-largest religion and its principles. The group partook in the ‘langar’, a communal meal, typically of Punjabi food, cooked and served by volunteers.
After the gurudware visit, it was time for lunch, shopping and leisure. The delegation spent the afternoon at Ahmedabad One Mall. Early evening, the group went for local shopping in the streets of Ahmedabad and later also visited Craftroots.
The Sunday evening had another important feature of the program in store, “Learning to do ‘Seva’ and volunteer.” “Seva Café” in Ahmedabad believes in “Love all; Serve all& Living is giving”. One of the busiest evenings of the week of this Restaurant was run by the Czech Delegation, where the group members volunteered to serve, wash the dishes, clean the restaurant, decorate it, draw the menu, lay the tables, help in the kitchen, take orders, etc. The delegation treated guests (who were astonished to be served by foreigners) as a part of the family and not as customers. They certainly faced language problems but they were good at “kindness, which is the language of love”, which was witnessed on the satisfied faces of the guests. Participating in the joy of giving taught them indirectly not only about the principles of Mahatma Gandhi but also serving others without anything in return.They were tired but satisfied, too. With the belief, that we will all spread love and kindness to others, the day came to an end.
Day – 4
Fourth day morning, from the phase of everything unfamiliar; be it weather, landscape and language to food, fashion, values, and customs, the group now seemed to have adapted and adjusted well. The two students from Faculty of Health Studies visited Zydus Hospital in Ahmedabad. They were accompanied by RU student Megh Parikh. Rest of the group members were in leisure in the campus. Having an early lunch, all were ready to leave forPanditDeendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar. Prof. Martin Farek, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts & Philosophy, Head of the Department for the Study of Religions at University of Pardubice was the esteemed Guest Speaker for the international workshop. The topic was ‘Can we talk about superstition in India?’ – Introduction into the Comparative Science of Cultures and Religions, with focus on Ethics. There is only one earth, but there are many different worlds. Sharing and knowledge transfer opens the door for exercising minds of same thoughts, behaviours & experiences. It was indeed a great interactive session, a session everyone was looking forward for. After some refreshments and interesting talks with reference to the workshop at PDPU, the delegation left for some shopping and buying souvenirs to National Handloom in Ahmedabad. The day ended with a hearty dinner in campus.
Day – 5
On day five, after breakfast the delegation visited IIM-Ahmedabad, which has evolved from being India’s premier management institute to a notable international school of management in just four decades. The students visited the entire campus and learnt about the Indian Education System and also how students at IIM-A study by interacting with some of the current students. Further, the delegation visited “VidhanSabha” – Gujarat Legislative Assembly in Gandhinagar. They attended the General Assembly which comprised of the Cabinet Ministers of Gujarat, Members of State of Gujarat & 182 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of Gujarat.They had nice “Saatvik” lunch and then visited DandiKutir and Mahatma Mandir. The students learnt a lot about the history of India, the teachings from Mahatma Gandhi. They saw his journey and understood his lesson on truth, non-violence and non-violent methods of protest. Also, that he wanted a world with no hatred, only love and only peace.In the evening, all enjoyed a beautiful time together at Akshardham, Gandhinagar. The day ended but the memories will last forever.
Day – 6
Early morning yoga certainly makes the mind steadier and calmer. With a head start to the day, after breakfast the delegation left for National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. With some breathing moments after reaching the campus and seeing some departments, the group was all set for the workshop.
“Learning by doing” has been one of the best principles for thousands of years as in contrast to learning only by watching others perform, reading instructions and descriptions, etc. Prof. Pravin Solanki – who is an NID alumnus, teaches Furniture and Interior Design at NID, also he is the department Head. He has worked on various interior designs and retail store design projects and has fourteen years of rich and varied work experience. He has worked in Italy for six years, designing and executing retail store interiors around the world. He has a special interest in bamboo furniture and is the coordinator of Bamboo Initiatives at NID. The workshop was about getting hands on experience on working with bamboo and making a creative product of your own. Delegates and Rai University students were demonstrated and guided by experts for every step in the procedure of making a trendy product from bamboo. Students although from diverse academic backgrounds had great time learning about the art and creating their imagination into reality. After having lunch at the NID the group did save some room for desserts. “Dessert” is truly the best time of the day for some people and it was time the group tasted Indian Desserts. They say, “Sweets are sweeter when shared with good friends” probably that is why our Czech friends felt Indian sweets are sweeter than the sweets in Czech.
In the early evening, the group went for souvenir shopping and then it was time for some adventure. The group reached Sabarmati River Front in the early evening. The group climbed 60-foot-high platform and zipped across the river Sabarmati in just 45 seconds. The slight breeze on the river intensifies into a much stronger gale as you move. They almost skimmed the surface of the water with their feet. The 1100-foot-wide river stretches calmly below as you hold on the zip-line gliding across the waters swiftly.
After this thrilling experience, the students cycled down towards the boating station, which is at the other side of riverfront. Some of them enjoyed some “Me” time at riverfront. Some preferred walking down the waterside. The group enjoyed speed boat and family boat rides. The evening was cool, pleasant and refreshing. The delegation enjoyed dinner in campus.
Day – 7
You cannot always control what goes on outside but you can always control what goes on inside. They say, “Yoga heals the soul”. It was a bright sunny morning and the group was energized after Yoga. After breakfast, they left to visit the ancient Indus Valley Civilization city of Lothal. The 4,500-year-old city of Lothal was discovered in 1954. Dating back to the second millennium BC, Lothal was an important port on the Indian subcontinent during the Harappan era. Students were very keen about knowing the history. Govt. of Gujarat has also put up a Museum showing old artifacts recovered from excavations.The museum there and the audio visual helped students understand about the most important are the sites of the ancient dockyard, the acropolis, the lower town, the bead factory, the warehouses, and the drainage system. The site was protected against floods by 13 m thick mud brick wall. The students could see the remains of a well-planned city with old road layouts, dockyard, a sewage system, houses, walls made of fine burnt bricks etc. The visit was fruitful and very interesting.Students had packed lunch on way back. In the noon they had some time for rest. After evening snacks and some time for leisure the evening was much awaited by all.
One of the best things about the evening was good ambience, which was set up by the administration team at Rai University, great efforts were put in to make the evening pleasant for all. Next comes good food, which kind of goes hand in hand for any evening and the credit for the same goes to the Mess and Kitchen staff at the university. Last and certainly one of the main reasons – the musicians, who were young but greatly talented and skilled. The audience remained glued to their seats for more than two hours. Hat’s off to the singers and musicians.
Music has played a vital role in shaping our Indian culture and traditions. This is the reason why, even today, any happy occasion is incomplete without music in some form or the other.That evening, not only the sounds of the strings were magical but also the vibes which were produced from the campfire and the fire lit for light. But the “raaga” and “Tala” for the evening certainly became cross culturally international when our Czech friends sang some Hindi Songs with the Indian students and the Indian students sang Czech songs with them – it was truly one of the best moments of the evening! The other best moments included some of the Czech friends shaking their legs to the tunes of Indian traditional music mixed with a dash of famous folk, Bollywood& English numbersand of course the chit-chat and talks between the Indo-Czech friends after dinner around the campfire. It was one of the best evenings of their stay.
Day – 8
24th February was a very important day for all as the academic staff delegation from University of Pardubice was going to arrive in the morning. The Indian tradition of welcoming the guest as God has stayed alive despite countless changes India has gone through. To their surprise, the staff delegates were welcomed by the Czech students in an Indian way wearing Indian clothes. It was one of the best sights of a true culture exchange. After some rest time, there was exchange of currency. Very soon the student delegates were escorted towards the lawn area for an activity between Rai University students and the Czech students.
We grow plants for many reasons, some people to do it to please their soul, some to challenge their patience, some for novelty but students at Rai University planted a plant with the Czech delegates to begin friendship and together experience the joy in seeing the plant grow.
“I Promise” that’s what the Rai University students said to the Czech delegates. They promised that hence forth, the plant will be nurtured and nourished by them. It will now be their duty to take care of the plant and also the friendship.It was a beautiful moment for all wherein they together planted hope.
“We planned this activity, so that we have atleast one reason to stay connected with each other; throughout our lives.”– Yash Desai, student coordinator for the activity.
In the late afternoon, it was time for some rest.
It is true that a great introduction to their culture is their cuisine. It reflects many things about the traditions and the culture. The food, culture and traditions of India has been shaped by itslong history, unique geography, and greatly influenced by the different rulers, travellers and neighbors. Rai University students organized a Cooking Workshop for the Czech friends. Since they were going to make “Gajjar ka Halwa”, which is a dessert the time for the workshop was at night after dinner.Two teams were divided and both had a great time preparing their dishes. They say, “A recipe has no soul, you as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.” The Czech group truly added their heart and soul in making gajjar ka halwa. It was relished by all.
“Cooking with friends is not just about ingredients, recipe and cooking. It’s about making homemade memories and the secret ingredient is always ‘love’.” – Karan Hemnani, student coordinator for the activity.
Day – 9
The very heart of yoga practice is “abhyasa” – steady effort in the direction you want to go. After morning yoga practice & a hearty breakfast, it was time for 1, 2, 3, 4, – a dance workshop. Experiencing cultural dance requires you to observe through a different kind of dance lens. The group was very excited to learn the traditional folk dance of Gujarat – ‘Garba’ with some touch of Indian Bollywood. Superb efforts and coordination inspired all.
While the students were attending the dance workshop, the staff delegates had an appointment with Provost – Dr. Kartik Jain, which was followed by lunch together.
After their dance performance, the Rai University delegation (students) that visited Czech Republic last June, had prepared a pot snack treat for the Czech students and staff delegates. They had a great time reviving their days of visit to Czech Republic and were surprised to get gifts from the Czech group. ‘Kofola’ surely added to their smiles.
In the evening, was the official welcoming session for the entire Czech delegation, which was attended by all the Course Coordinators and HODs at Rai University. A formal welcome address was given by Prof. Shraddha Mavani – Director, International Affairs. In continuation, Prof. Ashish Rami – Asst. Dean, Centre for Research & Development (CRD) gave a presentation on Rai University. Then a special address was given by Provost – Dr. Kartik Jain. After the addresses from Rai University, Prof. Tatiana Molková, the Vice-Rector for Internal Affairs briefed the audience about University of Pardubice, which was followed by department wise address by Prof. Jana Holá, Assoc. Prof., the Vice-Dean for Research and Development at the Faculty of Health Studies, Prof. Martin Farek – Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts & Philosophy, Head of the Department for the Study of Religions, Prof. Libor Švadlenka, Assoc. Prof., the Dean of the Jan Perner Transport Faculty & Prof. Viktor Prokop, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economics and Administration. The session was concluded with felicitation of gifts to the delegates by Rai University and national anthem of Czech Republic and India.
Food is often used as a means of retaining the cultural identity of the place we have visited. It was now time for dinner and the staff and student delegates were all set to enjoy Gujarati delicacies. Gujarati thali has garnered much fame not only outside the Gujarati diaspora but also beyond the national boundary.The dinner was a great hit.
Day – 10
It was a bright Sunday morning. Modern living breeds a multi-tasking brain. Vipassana is the oldest of the Buddhist meditations. It is a non-secular, mind-body practice that cultivates awareness and helps you to become more mindful and accepting of your present circumstances. The staff and students delegates visited Vipassana Meditation Centre early morning to understand about the technique and the concept of Vipassana. Meditating helps to calm the mind, ease anxiety, and improve concentration. This direct experience of our own inner reality, this technique of self-observation, is what is called Vipassana meditation. In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, ‘passana’ meant seeing in the ordinary way, with one’s eyes open; but Vipassana is observing things as they actually are, not just as they appear to be. From the Vipassana Centre, the group drove back to campus and had breakfast and then some time for leisure.
After lunch in the noon, the delegates left for visiting Adalaj Step Well. The place is known for its Asian Historical Architecture and was built during the reign of Queen Rudabai, a Muslim ruler, way back in 1499. The well once provided water to weary travellers and pilgrims along the roads outside of Ahmedabad. The group explored the place and its interior, which is a stunning example of Indo-Islam fusion architecture work.
From Adalaj Step Well, the group headed towards SafaiVidyalaya – Toilet Cafe, which is close to Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram. The first of its kind in the country where people sit on lavatories to eat. A part of SafaiVidyalaya, started by India’s “toilet man” Padmashri awardee Ishwarbhai Patel, this cafe is used by the mostly government officials and workers of NGOs who come here for training on sanitation.SafaiVidyalaya is the original branch of the HarijanSevakSangh, an initiative established by Gandhi in 1932 to bring greater sanitation through instilling a sensitivity and removal of untouchability, as well as fostering the engineering and designing of toilets and sanitation technologies to suit diverse populations and needs across the state and nation.In addition, this space offers opportunities for “inner sanitation”. After light refreshments, the group then headed towards Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, which is walking distance.
Sabarmati Ashram formerly known as Satyagraha Ashram was witness to many historical events that shook up the British Empire. Set up in 1915, the Ashram was also a perfect example of a model community based on rules and values. The group visited all the sub units at the ashram.
In the early evening, it was time for some shopping and buying souvenirs. Book lovers had glee in their eyes since the destination was Crossword.For book lovers, there’s no more magical place than the local bookstore.
It was now time for the farewell dinner.
Goodbyes are not forever and certainly not the end, it is for the time until we meet again. The staff and student delegates were honored to have the presence of Dr. Kartik Jain, Provost & Prof. Anil Tomar, Director – Centre for Research & Development & Admissions. The delegates were welcomed in a Rajwadi royal style. They experienced the village culture of India with the lovely ambience, entertainment which included folk dance, puppet show, magic show, etc. and to top it all – good food.
Very often, when the time duration comes to an end we feel we didn’t realize we were making memories. The time spent together between the group and RU students will be cherished all their life. Nazdravi to the bonding!
Day 11 – Day 14
Traveling by Rajdhani Express from Ahmedabad to New Delhi was a great experience for the Czech students. Built on the banks of the Yamuna River, Delhi is a beautiful blend of a historical past and a vibrant present. It is the capital city of the Republic of India.
Student representatives from Northern Institute of Integrated Learning in Management – Center for Management Studies (NIILM – CMS) welcomed the Staff and student delegation at the station.
The group then visited the Czech Embassy, New Delhi in the morning.
They arrived at NIILM-CMS campus in the afternoon and were warmly welcomed by the staff and students at NIILM.After checking into dorms, lunch and some rest the delegates were privileged to meet the President, Dr.Rupa Raje Gupta- NIILM CMS. In the early evening, the staff and student delegation were honored to meet Dr. Harbeen Arora, Chancellor of Rai University in Ahmedabad, Gujarat who is also the Founder & Global Chairperson of ALL Ladies League (ALL), an international women’s chamber. Her words and presence inspired every soul present there. In the evening, students of NIILM put up a great welcoming show for the guests.
The next day, the delegates went for Delhi sight-seeing. It was a long day; they visited QutubMinar, India Gate, Lotus temple, National Railway Museum to name a few. The last day they visited Agra – The TajMahal. They had an unforgettable time visiting one of the wonders of the world. One of the best moments was the interaction between the NIILM, Rai University and Czech students.Unfolding another beautiful side of the Discover India Program – broadening your ideas and ways of thinking.
After midnight, the staff and student delegation bid goodbye to all and left for their country.