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Dialogues on Disability: Delhi (2014)

Students and staff from King's joined with an active and engaged group of peers from partner institutions to explore the challenges and opportunities surrounding accessibility and inclusion of disabled people in universities as part of the Dialogues on Disability programme in Delhi.

Day 1 - Nicole Walsh

For someone who has never been on a long-haul flight, trying to explain the feeling of arriving in Delhi on two hours sleep is quite overwhelming. Combing time difference, heat and a long journey have all added up to a wonderful, but ultimately rather lazy day. I fell asleep looking at a quite peaceful Delhi, with open fields to the side of the airport.

Our hosts at the university were so welcoming and generous. We were greeted off our coach at the guest house by volunteer students who ushered us in with a traditional greeting- marking us with a bindi to wish us wisdom and prosperity during our time here.


We had our first Indian meal soon after we arrived, starting with a soup that was the start of many spiced and flavorsome dishes thought the week.

We were kept away from the heat as all of our accommodation is kept cool for us, and with private rooms for two with our bags helped upstairs, we could not be more grateful- knowing that it is over 15 degrees hotter than back home.

After we settled in, we were introduced to the staff running the trip and to students from the University of Edinburgh who are joining us for the program. Just when we thought we were ready to head off to our bedrooms and relax, we got our first experience of Indian spontaneity and were told we were off to go shopping. We jumped into a minibus, grabbed onto the handles above us and swerved through Delhi traffic to the markets.


Unlike anything I have ever experienced before, we watched it get dark as we ran through the streets taking in the various smells and colours and waiting outside the first saree shop that was flooded with our team. Then it hit us- our first ever experience of a monsoon! So it was time to run back to the minibus, past an ox that was just standing in the street and back for a rickety, leaky and adrenaline filled journey back indoors.

Safe to say, it was the best way to get thrown in and orientate us with a taste of what the next nine days had in store

Day 2 - Kyriaki Thoidou

The day started with a brief introduction in the Vice Regal Lodge, which is the name for the vice chancellor's offices in the University of Delhi. During the introduction we got to meet some of the people whose contributions were vital for the Connect to India programme to be possible, for example professor Pami Dua. They were also notable researchers who had an esteemed place at the university. Moreover, we also had the pleasure to come in contact with the Dean of Academic Activities & Projects, professor Malashri Lal. One of the issues she mentioned was that integration regarding disability was not easy in India, because the university has to convince not only the teachers and the academic community about disability equality but also the whole society and especially the families that have children with disability. However, the university was working hard on this matter.


During and after the introduction, we were informed about the history of India since the 1700s. It was pointed out how the area in which the university was built played a role during the war. Furthermore, it was described how the establishment and function of the University of Delhi positively influenced the upbringing of modern India. While, we were hearing about the history of India, we visited the Art Gallery and

Convocation Centre, which used to be a ball room. We had the chance to see original manuscripts that the university owned and pictures of India during their significant times. We proceeded to see a part of the Great Dungeons, where Bhagat Singh was kept, a person of significance in the India Independence movement.

After having some tea, we visited the Cluster Innovation Centre (CIC), located in the Sport Centre of the University of Delhi. In this centre, students from all the universities colleges could attend classes that were recognised as part of their degree. The classes were optional and focused on improving the society. Students worked in groups, with teachers as mentors, preparing projects that affected everyday life. In detail, they started by recognising a local problem, they studied it and proposed solutions. Finally, they applied those solution theories in practice. We were presented with many examples which managed to make an impact into society, one of which is described below.


Example of CIC Project: Sign Language


Sign Language is marginalized in India. There are not many people in the society or the public services thatknow how to sign. Hence, people with hearing impairments struggle or sometimes cannot communicate even with the police

Taking Action

The students visited a number of police stations and talked to wide number of policemen about the importance of having sign language interpreters. They also conducted presentation on the matter in police stations.


In response, police academies made it mandatory for everyone, who desires to be qualified as a policeman in the future, to attend and pass a class in the basic level of sign language.

After lunch, the day continued with visits to St. Stephens College, one of the first established colleges of Delhi University and Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), which is one of the elite colleges in commerce and economics in India.

In both colleges the issue of accessibility was mentioned. In detail, the St. Stephens College had more accessible classrooms for students with physical disabilities than SRCC, because of the building structures. It was also mentioned that the environment outside the university campus, in Delhi, was not accessible. For example, people with physical or visual impairments could not use public transport. At St. Stephens College we met many students with visual impairments, whose talents were pointed out. At the same time SRCC speakers agreed with one of our team member's position that the university should focus on changing the mindset of people about disability as well as the accessibility. Overall, both colleges presented desire to improve their already existing support.


Last but not least, the final part of our day included a visit to Yamuna Bio-Diversity Park. It was a large park in the middle of Delhi that was devoted to preserve the unique fauna and flora that modern Delhi was threatening to extinct. We saw some of the sacred plants of India and learned about others that provided medical benefit. However, the most memorable moment was when each of us got to plant our own tree. It can be said that it was a very emotional moment as we were informed that the trees we planted will grow to be thirty meters high and assist in preserving the Indian flora after long after we leave India.

Overall, the second day of our trip was very busy but also incredibly informative. I believe we gained a lot from this experience, learning about disability in India as well as creating unforgettable memories.

Based on what we have seen so far, I cannot wait for the next days to come.

Day 3 - Tianne Fowler

In the morning we walked to the Equal Opportunity Cell, based in the Commonwealth games centre for a discussion about disability and legislation in India. We learned that within India the focus is predominantly on visual, orthopaedic and hearing disabilities.

Interestingly we were informed that dyslexia is covered under the Mental Health Act 1987 and not the Disability Act 1995; however it was acknowledged during our discussion that there will be new legislation soon to be instated and it is believed that the new act will introduce learning disabilities in order to create better support systems for those with learning disabilities.

We had a quick break for refreshments halfway through the talk, the University of Delhi have been so hospitable and we are so well cared for, we are never in short supply of tea, coffee, juice and biscuits.

During the break a few of us sat outside in the sun and discussed what we have learnt. It's hard to compare India and the UK concerning attitudes towards disability because culturally it's very different, and there are some areas which I believe can be improved with regards to disability, acceptance, legislation and support. I also think that there is such a lot that we can learn and take home with us to the UK, in terms of social support, compassion and kinship.

We had a tour around the Braille library and saw some really interesting things, I've never met anyone within my university who is visually impaired, and before this I never really thought about how someone with a visual impairment would access learning materials, so it was really interesting to see software that enabled visually impaired students to access books printed in Braille. They had their own Braille printing machine. I was also really impressed to find out that many books are translated into audio books by volunteers. Being dyslexic audio books are a great help for me too as they really help me and I often use audio books to support my studies.


This picture is from one of the recording booths where volunteers go to record books and literature for visually impaired students to use.

What was really shocking from me was how basic everything seemed and I started to think to all of the help I have at University such as software like Dragon and Claro read and materials like coloured overlays for when I am reading. My laptop, printer and dictaphone all provided through the my disabled student allowance. I am not sure that I would be able to continue studying without the help that I've grown so accustomed to; it just shows the lengths that people go to obtain an education, which I found really humbling.

We returned to the guesthouse lunch which was marvellous as always, I don't miss English food at all in fact going to be really unhappy that I can't eat curry every day for both lunch and my evening meal.

However, a very spicy green chilli did somehow sneak its way onto my plate from the salad garnish and hide beneath my lentils today. I won't be making that mistake again in a hurry.


We were given little time to relax after lunch before I next lecture with a psychiatrist for where we discussed attitudes towards disability in India for and also diagnosis of disability, we also discussed how individuals may feel reluctant to be identified as disabled for fear of being stigmatised by their family and their community. Was it really interesting conversation because I do think that even though in the UK we believe ourselves as accepting of disability, as a part-time support worker for adults with learning disabilities I still feel that we have a lot of prejudice and stigma still associated with learning disabilities and in my opinion much of this discussion applied to both India and the UK.

After our talk we were introduced to the students who last year came to visit us last year. It was lovely to get the chance to speak to students who have, in some way, experienced the same as what we have, and to hear their views on disability and inclusion within both India and the UK. Over the next hour we ended up playing a group game of ‘wa'

(Louise and Hannah were both very deserving winners) and then two students from India sang a Hindi song for us, it was moving to see all of the students and staff enjoying such a wonderful moment together.

Dr Reno had kindly arranged for us to visit the kitchen of our guesthouse where we were shown how to make some traditional

Indian bread, it was entertaining, needing out the dough and arranging into something that looked vaguely like a paratha. Our friends from University of Delhi joined us for our evening meal. We then said our goodbyes and headed to our rooms, to rest before another action packed day.

Day 4 - Dylan Donaldson

On the 4th of September we visited the Blind Relief Association, which was established in 1944 by the Basrukrur. The aim of the association was to give blind people a more meaningful and fulfilling life, which in turn would reduce the need for them to beg. The school was started in 1944 and at the time it was difficult to find students as many families were ashamed of their children with disabilities. Although this attitude still exists in India. It would appear that times are quickly changing and families are seeking support for their children with special needs.


One crucial element of the Blind Relief Association's work is the fact that they train the visually impaired for the work environment. 95% of the teacher's salaries are paid for by the government. However, the Blind Relief Association also manufacture products and provide services in order to raise funding for themselves. Many blind people are trained in the art of candle making, with Diwali being an opportunity for the association to make a larger sum of money in order to continue to support themselves. Interestingly, the blind patrons of the association can also take lessons in massage. This is a great career path for them to follow as they are only marginally hindered by their lack of sight. As well as education and work, housing also provided for the students that do not live in New Delhi.

It was wonderful to experience the sense of community within the school. The visibly impaired children seemed keen to help each other and were able to find their way around with ease. This links to the sense of collectivism, a sense of joint responsibility, which seems prevalent in Indian culture. In addition to this the children were also supplied with tactile games, including chess with raised tiles on the board. Playing games is a very important part of a child's development, and the blind-friendly board allowed the visually impaired children to participate in these activities. Amazingly, the blind children were also able to play cricket, using a noise-making ball. Again demonstrating the ways in which the Blind Relief Association were enabling then to overcome their vision impairment. Seeing the ways in which the Association were able to enable the blind students to enrich their lives, and reach their full potential was inspiring and demonstrated that disability should never be allowed to hold a child back.


The blind students had access to the on-screen computer reader; Jaws. This meant that they were still able to read the materials that were essential to their education.

After a delicious lunch at the South Indian restaurant; Saravana Bhawan, we visited a shopping area which comprised of both the cottage Emporium (a department store), and a street market. The two shopping experiences were in stark contrast to each other. The cottage Emporium was air conditioned and spacious, in stark contrast to the street market. There was a price to pay for the comfort of the Cottage Emporium, as the prices were higher and relatively fixed. As opposed to the street market were no price was fixed and the shops and stalls had no boundaries and sellers followed us down the street in search of a sell. It was shocking to see a young girl who appeared to be around nine years old persistently selling beads to passing tourists. The street market was extremely frenetic, but a great Indian experience nonetheless. It inspired me to attempt haggle a little whilst shopping at home in order to get the best price.


Day 5 - Hannah Brady

The 5th of September - perhaps fittingly, being the midpoint of our trip to Delhi - was a day characterised by insurmountable questions and challenging discussion. From the outset, the itinerary did not seem to be one of great emotional (or even political) intrigue: we were to begin the day with a talk from esteemed psychiatrist Dr. Nimesh G. Desai, continue on to the Presidential Palace and spend the evening at the British Council. Expecting a day of formal engagements, I was surprised to find that - perhaps more than at any other point - it was these meetings that invoked some of the most humbling and perplexing conversations of the entire trip.


Dr. Desai is currently the Director of Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences (IHBAS) and has served as the Honorary General Secretary of the Indian Psychiatric Society and the Hon. Editor of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Yet despite all of Dr. Desai's achievements, he wanted to hear from us. Members of our group began to open up about their experiences at school and university; for many it was a chance to connect both with others and their disabilities. In particular, several dyslexic students highlighted that our peer group of students from King's and Edinburgh had offered their first ever occasion to meet and speak to others with dyslexia. It was a point which offered opportunity for me to consider my relationship as a hearing impaired woman with the rest of the deaf community. Having chosen not to sign, and not to attend a school for deaf children, it dawned on me that the ways in which I relate my disability to my social circles - this being primarily through use of humour - have often been to skirt around the very real issue of stigma. As our discussion with Dr. Desai progressed, we spoke of how the confusion of this stigma impacts others' understanding of our disabilities and of the support we receive from our universities, most notably in the form of laptops and other equipment.

Later during our tour of the beautiful and majestic Presidential Palace, it was difficult to divorce my mind from some of these core issues. The Palace, known the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Hindi, was originally built for the British Viceroy and now is the official home of President Pranab Mukherjee. For me, the tour presented food for thought for several reasons: firstly, it was very difficult to hear, and the lack of awareness and/or equipment available at the site highlighted to me the journey that India has yet to fully undertake in its understanding of hearing impairment; secondly, it was fairly uncomfortable as a British citizen to stand directly in the shadow of past colonialism and confront the legacy that the United Kingdom left in this country. The grandiosity of the building and its astonishing beauty does little to reflect the painful elements of the British presence in India, and for me, correlated with the jarred edges of adjacent poverty and prosperity still very visible in the country today.


Indeed, throughout our trip, the ties between disability and poverty had been crucial to our comprehending perceptions of and challenges faced by the disabled in India. For many, disability is both a consequence and a cause of poverty, with lack of healthcare, education and employment restricting the opportunities for empowerment and success available to those affected.

This thought processed continued to develop at the reception held by the British Council in Delhi. During the evening we had the opportunity to meet members of the British Council and converse with University of Delhi students who had visited our campuses last year. We were also treated to a musical performance by a band whose lead singer had a visual impairment, showcasing how those with disabilities are able to pursue their interests and be integrated into abled society. Most notably, the two keynote speakers were Javed Abidi, an activist for disability rights and wheelchair user, and Samuel Mani, a successful businessman with cerebral palsy. Both had inspirational stories and motivational messages. Abidi spoke of how far India still had to go, and lamented the lack of development in accessibility for the hearing impaired and the mobility impaired, both at the University of Delhi and in the wider community. Some considered his speech to be controversial, viewing his criticisms as dismissive of other less visible disabilities such as learning difficulties. However, Abidi's thirst for equality was captivating, and it has to be recognised that the cultural and social rubrics of India have established a specific context within which disability functions and exists; in order for learning difficulties to be better understood, activists must also agitate for visible disabilities to be addressed and for obstacles to be removed. Following on from this, Mani's speech highlighted a message essentially at the core of liberation campaigns: “I think I just want to be accepted.”

I imagine, that like me, other students with disabilities will feel occasionally that there is a point of irreconcilable difference between others and ourselves. That there is a lack of comprehension regarding our bodies and minds in the public sphere, and that these differences can impact on our experiences at university, work and in our social lives. It's a mountain that at times seems almost insurmountable.

However, the work and determination of individuals like Abidi and Mani to have acceptance - as we are, with our disabilities - is crucial to the development of accessibility support both in India and the UK. It is only truly until we refuse to see disability as a hindrance that we can fully embrace a future of being recognised as equal and valued members of societies, with the same right to our respective identities and aspirations. In India and the UK, disabled students will excel not in spite of our disabilities, but together with them and because of them.

Day 6 - Hannah Douglas

Our sixth day in India proved the highlight of the trip for many of us.

The Amar Joyti Charitable Organisation was an extraordinary place. As a completely inclusive school it had 50% disabled students and 50% non-disabled students. We observed that as integration had happened at such a young age, for these students there was little of the stigma towards disabilities that we had seen elsewhere in India. The experience really highlighted the idea of collectivism which we had been experiencing. Students with no hearing impairment were able to sign with those who did in order to communicate. Students with mobile impairments were helped around the school by their classmates without a second thought.


What we all commented on was the happy atmosphere at this school.

They were simply a group of children playing and learning together and probably getting up to some mischief. From the outside it appeared as a school but from the inside it was a pioneering step towards accessibility and inclusion.

I personally found it an inspiration to see people vastly younger than myself embracing their lives and experience everything to its fullest. There was no sense of resentment from students who found themselves in a difficult situation because of their disability. They seemed to have simply accepted it and moved on. Something I think everyone can learn from, not least myself.

From this experience I learned that our disabilities are something we should celebrate. People with disabilities may find it harder to get on the same level as everyone else. However, I believe that once they are there, in the workplace or in education, they will excel beyond their counterparts. This is because of their amazing work ethic as people with disabilities never have the opportunity to be lazy if they wish to succeed.

Because of this it is no surprise that the school is also the centre of the Abilympics. The Abilympics are a competition showcasing vocation skills by people with disabilities. Yet another celebration.

While we were there we witness the birthday of Dr. Uma Tuli founder of the trust. There were songs and dance, flowers and cake far beyond any celebration a teacher in England could expect. To list her accomplishments is impossible in the 600 words I have been given but I encourage everyone to read about her amazing work, life and achievements. I learnt from her that the complete inclusion of people with disabilities is a human right and it should be all our social obligation to ensure this happens.

Celebration is part of the fabric of life in India. Later in the day we visited the Kingdom of Dreams, an immersive Indian experience. In what was essentially a shopping centre a dance performance broke out with shoppers circling around each other getting involved in the performance. It was not what I would expect from a trip to the shops, but in India it seems that nothing done is done without a full heart and a big smile.

When we came to reflect on this day one thing that stuck was that none of us could think of an institution in England that was doing what Amar Jyoti was, providing uninhibited inclusion. What many of us took away from this day was that we all had something to learn here. We must embrace and celebrate the things we cannot change in other and also within ourselves.

Day 7 - William Bell Stewart

We woke up at 6.20am to be on the bus for 7.15am however we had all now become accustomed to “India Time” and therefore knew the bus would actually not leave until 7.45. The bus ride was 3 and a half hours. Rain and thunderstorms had been forecast however when we reached Agra and had to transfer to a smaller electric bus it was one of the hottest and driest days we've had on the trip.

Once we arrived at the Taj Mahal and walked through the red stone archway to bring the Taj Mahal into view it was clear that this building deserves its place at one of the Seven Wonders of the World. A tour guide then led us down towards the Taj Mahal informing us to some of its history and below I have summarised what we learnt:

The creator of the Taj Mahal was the Fifth Mughal Emperor: Shah Jahan. He was considered as one of the greatest Mughal leaders and his rule is often referred to as the Golden Age (1627 - 1666). Shah Jahan fell in love with Mumtaz Mahal a Muslim Persian princess. Shah Jahan had other wives however it was Mumtaz Mahal who was his true love and she travelled everywhere with him even on military campaigns. Sadly in 1631 when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child she died due to complications. As she was on her deathbed Shah Jahan promised never to remarry and to build the richest mausoleum over her grave. She died in Burhanpur and was buried in a walled garden there however the golden casket was later moved to a small building on the banks of the Yamuna River, soon afterwards the Taj Mahal was constructed over her grave. When Shah Jahan died he was placed alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.


It has been estimated that over 22,000 labourers and 1000 elephants were involved in the Taj Mahal's construction. The four sides of the Taj Mahal are also identical and the use of symmetry in the architecture is clear to see. One of the most shocking facts we learnt about the Taj Mahal was that after the construction was complete all of the workers had their hands removed which was so they could never build any building as beautiful again.

We left the Taj Mahal amazed by what we had just seen and climbed back aboard the cool, air conditioned bus to head to a restaurant to have some lunch. Lunch was a beautiful spread of indian cuisine and there was also pasta which was too tempting for many us as we had been eating curry everyday so far.

After lunch we travelled to Agra Fort. Sadly there was not enough time for us to go inside however we did get chance to take photos in front of this magnificent fort. The fort can be described as a walled city built by the Mughals which has stood since at least the 11th century. After some photographs we jumped back on the bus for the long journey back to the University of Delhi International Guesthouse. We were greeted back at the University of Delhi International Guesthouse by another beautiful meal and that evening it was an early night for everyone after a long day out in the heat of the Indian sun.


Day 8 - Rahima Subhan

We are nearing the end of our ‘Connect to India' journey, and what a wonderful experience we have had so far. On the 8th day of the program we begin with a series of talks and interactions held at the International Guest house's Committee room until the late afternoon.

The first talk was given by Dr Renu Malaviya (Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Lady Irwin college, Delhi University) the talk's topic was on “General Teachers and Special Education teachers: Perceptions and inter-linkages towards inclusive Education.” This talk gave me insights on what improvements are needed to better the learning experience for students with disabilities, from technological to social traditions that are currently inhibiting the student's ease of study. For instance, Dr. Malaviya noted that in regards to technology, most universities do not have visual stimulants like power points which if implemented in all universities it will help to visually aide students whilst learning.

Moreover. Regarding the Indian traditions, there exists this general feeling of students not wanting to raise issues as they do not want to be seen as a burden and not be known to carry a disability due to the stigma it is linked with. Dr Malaviya mentioned that she had a student “.. .who preferred to waste fifteen minutes of her time reaching the lecture hall, rather then let everyone know about her disability”, she adds “.it is the teachers who need to make them understand that is their right” to tell others and to stop the silence acting as a barrier to their ease of learning.


The second talk was by Dr. Ragesh Singh from Delhi Universities' Brail Library. We learnt that their library services are very advanced and that this has been made possible due to the dedication given by the librarians whose mission is to aide students with the materials they need. For example, the library prints three Braille books a day and offers them to their students to keep, free of charge. When the librarians noted that not all books are made accessible, their solution was to make all books available online, be it in audio book or E-Text form, Lastly the library is open 24/7 so students can depend on the library for resources at their convenience.


Following on from this, we had the pleasure of meeting some students with disabilities from Delhi University for a questions and answers session, the points raised were mainly focused on identifying the positive and negative experiences students have come across at a higher education level. I wanted to know if there existed a student (with disabilities) - led committee to represent the students' voice to senior members of staff, as this role allows students to contribute to bettering their academic experience. A student noted that currently there is not such a committee but she empahasised that there s a great need for one. This student had previously fought to set up a panel similar to this idea, however it has not yet materialised.


During Lunch we had another opportunity to socialise with the students at Delhi University and new friendships were formed.

Following on from Lunch, we had a very knowledgeable talk and interaction with Mary Baruha the Director for Action for Autism. We were privileged to hear of her own personal accounts as she informed us that her son has autism. Her talk was entitled “Person with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Issues and Challenges in India at school, college and vocational levels. Mary discussed the challenges autistic children face in Indian schools and colleges; she noted suggestions for alternative teaching approaches in order to better autistic children's education.


After this, we were given free time, myself and all students at Kings came together to discuss what we will do for our presentation which will be presented the next day. The day ended with a walk along the busy Indian streets to the neighbouring Delhi University's Guesthouse where we had a social dinner with the Dean and other senior staff from Delhi University.


Finally I leave the best till last, the time again had arrived for us all to have the pleasure of eating a variety of delicious Indian cuisines and sweets before walking back to the International Guest House ready to retire for the night and await a new educationally and cultural enriched day to begin.


Day 9 - Rosalia Myttas-Perris

Each university was asked to give a presentation to the rest of the group to reflect their thoughts and experiences on the trip and share what they had learnt.

Both groups chose to sub-split into three groups to present ‘before'; ‘during' and ‘after' thoughts and expectations.


There were two observations discussed by the Edinburgh students which really stood out for me. The first was that within the “landscape of disability”, certain disabilities, namely visual impairment, was a lot more prevalent than other disabilities. This likely to be because of the high levels of visual impairment within the country. When asked about the cause of this I was told that it is inextricably linked with people living in poverty: for example what starts off as a minor infection, without access to healthcare, may lead to significant loss of sight. This ‘landscape of disability' made me consider the importance of equalizing awareness and assistance of all disabilities, rather than perhaps one, at the expense of another. It was wonderful to see that this has started to happen in the recognition and provisions made for ‘invisible disabilities': mainly specific learning difficulties. Through recognising specific learning difficulties within the university and campaigning for legal recognition: the University of Delhi is paving the way for inclusive disability support.

The second significant point raised was a comparison between the UK and India. Edinburgh students noted that whilst in the UK there is substantial support for students during their education, that support is not always continued through to the “adult” work of employment. This stood in contrast to what we saw at the Blind Relief Association; where as well as schooling blind students from the age of 6, they also provided vocational training, such as candle and bag making, in order to equip visually impaired persons with skills which then enable them to go through to particular areas of employment. This invaluable bridge is an opportunity for people to break the disability-poverty cycle by allowing them to become economically independent and sustain themselves.

I was part of the ‘during' group of the King's presentation, and I discussed the themes of collectivism and inclusivity. This was sparked on one of the first days around the colleges, where we saw lots of student election posters everywhere, including rickshaws and bus stops. Coming from the UK, where student election posters and leaflets are kept strictly within the confines of campus, I asked Renu (one of the professors) whether the owners of the rickshaws get angry that their rickshaws are plastered with university student elections. In response, Renu corrected my use of the term ‘his' and replaced it with ‘ours' and explained how the concept of individual ownership and property rights is virtually non-existent. I found it touching to be in an environment where the focus is on the collective, rather than the individual, as I feel this is greatly lacking in the UK. This feeling was reinforced at the Blind Relief Association and Amar Jyoti inclusive school. At these places we would constantly see students, disabled or not, helping each other with a natural fluidity which showed how second-nature this was to them.

This attitude of ‘it goes without saying' that we will guide and help one another was deeply moving, and something that I certainly would like to take back to the UK.

After these presentations, thank-yous and our last meal at the guest house (much to our disappointment) we got dressed in formal Indian dress and boarded the bus to meet the President of India. We were ushered into a grand, what I would call ‘press' room, where we sat down and the President then shortly arrived. After immaculate speeches from representatives of both Universities the President gave an encouraging speech about the nature of the programme. After photographs were taken, we were taken for tea and canapes.


As if all that excitement was not enough, our next stop was an arts college of the University of Delhi, were we were treated to spectacular dance shows which then rapidly turned participatory; with the whole group up on their feet attempting to Indian dance.

After another wonderful meal in which we were able to interact more students from the University, we went back to our hostel and turned in for the night.

Upon reflection, (aside from some false alarms of Delhi Belly) I don't think we could have asked for a better final day. It struck the perfect balance between looking back and going over what we have seen and learnt and meeting new people and trying new things.

Day 10 - Louise Gates

10 days ago, we stepped out of Delhi airport and were greeted instantly by a few students and staff from Delhi University. “Welcome to Delhi!” they said, “we're so glad you're here!”, whilst handing us individually wrapped roses.

Never before has 10 days passed by so quickly. I think we all woke up this morning not quite believing how fast these last 10 days had gone. India was intense. For 10 days, we tried to match the city's pace, rarely taking time off and packing as much into every single day as possible from exciting excursions to fascinating lectures and interesting... albeit heated.discussions. As hot and busy as the city is, it's equally inspiring. As long as we were outside our guesthouse, we were seeing new things, visiting museums, touring historic places of interest, resting in gorgeous gardens and shopping at saree stores and markets, unlike anything you'd see back home. I think I can speak for everyone when I say, we love India! We love the people and against the backdrop of a cacophony of sounds, myriad of colours and at times with our olfactory senses working overtime, Delhi was indeed a treat for the senses. The clothing, architecture, weather, ceremonious greetings, the friendliness and how accommodating our wonderful hosts were and of course not forgetting.the FOOD will all make up our fond memories of our stay.

But even more than the Indian people and the Indian food, we'll miss Delhi itself, a place with a personality all of its own. From now on, every other city we visit is going to seem ridiculous. Going downstairs to eat breakfast at 8am for the last time we were all sad to be leaving. The staff from Delhi University took us under their wings during our stay and we were all very sad to be saying goodbye to them. After lots of hugs and some last minute photos with our new friends we began boarding the coach for our short drive to Delhi airport. As we pulled away from the guesthouse we were frantically waving goodbye and caught our last glimpses of our home and family for the last 10 days, to which we'd all grown quite attached. And there's the distinct possibility that, as Delhi grew distant in the view from our airplane windows as we flew home, we'll become more attached. The experiences which we've spent 10 whirlwind days quickly processing, packing and cramming into our minds will be given time to unfold. The 10 days we spent here seemed to pass in 10 minutes, but the space which our time in Delhi eventually occupies in our memories will probably feel more like 10 months.

In the feedback session, one of our students quoted Terry Pratchett:

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.– Terry Pratchett

For all of those who participated, conversations were had, initiatives were seen and spoken of, emotions expressed and ideas were exchanged. We have all returned with new eyes and extra colours and perhaps look different to those we know.


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