Delhi: The Beauty and the Beast

Written by Natalie Kelly and Samantha Salanio, 2014 India Gender & Religion. 

**Note from Program Leaders, Claire and James: Much like some buses in India, our first India blog arrived several days late. But also, much like the bus arriving, it’s totally worth it.

From May 24th to 25th, our program leaders Claire and James were constantly running to and from the Delhi airport to pick up the volunteers for the India Gender & Religion program. We were greeted with welcoming hugs despite our post-flight grunge.

2014 India Gender and Religion team
Upon arrival, our five senses were awakened as we immersed ourselves in the heart of Delhi, a city that intertwines itself with the hustle and bustle of chaos and magical realism.  The best way to describe the streets of Delhi is a state of organised chaos. You have cars going in all directions, constant honking, the dodging of stray dogs roaming the roads, and vendors calling for your attention.

For the last couple days in Delhi we were able to sample an array of delicious curries. Among our favourites were channa masala (chickpeas), dal fried (lentils) with rice, paneer, pakora, and aloo ghobi. Majority of our meals were spent looking over the city on rooftops such as our Hotel Namaskar, Everest Restaurant, and the Exotic Place. You really can’t leave India without trying the food from the vendors but you must be warned, just because it looks good doesn’t mean it will settle in your stomach well! A right of passage that many of us faced was the notorious Delhi Belly…a.k.a.  travellers diarrhoea.

On the second day in Delhi, Claire and James released us into the hustle and bustle of Delhi in order for us to make our way without them. After being split into two teams, we worked together to navigate the metro, tuktuks (open door taxis), and rickshaws. One thing that surprised us the most was how hospitable the locals were. They went out of their way to help us find places within the city and expected nothing in return.

When A Woman Speaks, Listen. From May 28th to 29th, we had a conference of a total of 6 speakers which included LGBTQH issues in India by Manak, land-based rights by Ravi, Roma who discussed marital and inheritance rights, Binish who talked about the caste system, Seema discussed disability issues, and Vani further expanded gender and religion issues with a feminist spin. The three most important pieces of information that we took away is that we cannot fully understand issues relating to gender in India without understanding religion. As well, systemic oppression is prevalent everywhere, but individuals experience it differently in accordance to societal norms and customs. As Ravi explained, if you give everyone a bag of rice, the weight will be consistent for everyone but they way manage the bag of rice will vary from person to person. Each individual will experience the weight differently based on a variety of individual characteristics.

There’s been a lot of learning and still much to go!

Stay tuned for more updates!
Natalie Kelly and Samantha Salanio
2014 India Gender & Religion.