Talking to the World Project
I started this project in 2014 as a personal challenge. I wanted to see if it was possible to speak to one person in each country of the world. Talk to them about their daily lives. Our commonalities, rather than our differences. I assured them they could respond in any way they chose. Because the focus is on their words, I only identify them by their first names. To date, I have spoken with people in 60 plus countries with the help of friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. I still have a long way to go.
Nandita is a young woman who lives in the south of India. An administrator at an international school in Chennai (formerly Madras), she likes to travel, listen to music, and read in her free time. A devotee of Indian fine arts, she has done voiceovers for live and prerecorded theater performances.
I met Nandita on the Internet through her cousin, Raj. Raj is my son’s dear friend. Thank you, Son Number Two, for your help and support.
All photos are Nandita’s.
My Conversation with Nandita
Look outside your home and tell me what you see.
My backyard extends to a mount that is verdant and rich with plant and bird life. The front of my house looks onto a little road, always busy with commuters. The other two sides overlook my neighbors’ homes. What I see most is humanity living in peace and harmony in spite of diversity.
Describe your favorite time of day in India.
Dawn, or what is referred to as “Sandhya” in India. This is the coolest time of the day, when the sun lazily lifts its eyelids over the skyline. As the melody of the ‘sandhya vandanam’ (the morning song) lilts through the air, Indian housewives draped in saris step out to decorate the threshold of their homes with the kolam (a design drawn on the threshold of a house with a powder made from rice). As the sun rises higher, the diversity of India comes forth in full glory with chants from the Hindu temple mingling with hymns from the Church and the azan from the Mosque around the corner — truly unity in diversity.
What myth or stereotype about India would you like to dispel?
That tigers and elephants roam on the street. India is a highly industrialized country bustling with humanity. Though we may not be 100% literate, there is a concerted effort to achieve this. English is widely spoken and a medium of education. We may still follow the traditions of the old, but we have also kept ourselves abreast with the newest trends.
What does India do well?
Reproduce! We are bursting at the seams with population. But, jokes apart, we are a country rich in culture and heritage. Our education system brings out brilliant scholars. We have made great strides in science and technology. We are also one of the leaders in information technology.
What are India’s flaws?
We need to control our population. We still have a long way to go to accomplish universal education — a cause supported and popularized by our former President Dr. Abdul Kalam.
Corruption is yet another evil that permeates Indian society.
What gives you peace?
Belonging to a family that loves me and gives me the strength and support. Since I have received so much, I like to share what I have, which I do when I visit old age homes and orphanages. Being able to make a difference in the lives of those who are in need of love gives me peace and a sense of satisfaction.
What worries you?
The growing number of elders in old age homes. With more and more children opting for jobs beyond the shores of India, the aging population of India is choosing to move into such facilities. But they can never replace a loving home.
What is your opinion of the United States?
The U.S. is my second home. A large number of my family has settled there. I enjoy my visits there as I get to be closer to family and experience all the wonders the States has to offer.
If I came to your home for dinner, what would you serve me?
In India, we believe in ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ — the guest is equal to God. Be prepared to be treated like one, with hospitality and a liberal dose of love. Conversation will be free flowing and abundant.
On the table be ready for a delectable spread of South Indian food: rice, sambar (lentils soup), rasam (tamarind soup), vazhathakolambu (a tangy gravy), dondakaya vepudu (a squash preparation), Chapala pulusu (fish in a gravy), kozhi vepudu (chicken fry), dollops of velvety homemade curd (yogurt) … and Indian sweets!
An Indian feast