After wrapping up my first semester at Wharton and visiting my parents in Florida for the Christmas holiday, I boarded an Emirates Airbus A380 en route to Mumbai for the 2-week Wharton Global Immersion Program (GIP) in India.
A tight layover window in Dubai caused my luggage to be placed on the flight behind me, which resulted in my having to wait in the Mumbai airport for them to arrive. Just as they were being brought out to me five hours later, three of my classmates (Monica Rodriguez, Dean Drizin, and Matt Dennett—all WG15) who had just landed showed up as well.
We took a cab together and rode for what felt like days through a vast city with more than twice the population of New York City before reaching our hotel. The organized chaos that one encounters on the roads of India is something that words alone cannot express. It must be experienced. In time, however, we would become accustomed to the constant jerking, horn-honking and near-crashes that typify the experience on Indian roads. Some of my personal highlights from Mumbai included:
The Elephanta Caves/Lord Shiva Temple – We took a ferry through the Arabian sea to a small island off the coast of Mumbai were we toured an ancient Hindi temple built into a cave on the side of a mountain in honor of the Hindu god Shiva.
The Ghandi Museum – We visited the former home and office of one of the most important figures in both Indian and world history.
The World’s Most Expensive Home – A $1 billion, 27-story mansion built by a set of brothers–one of whom is a Wharton graduate.
Pratham Education Foundation (company visit) – The largest NGO working to ensure quality education for underprivileged children in India. It has sparked a pan-Indian movement that has impacted millions of children across 19 of the 28 states in the country.
The Dharavi Slums – One of the largest slums in the world and undoubtedly the most productive. A safe, peaceful community that supports over 8,000 businesses and churns out a GDP of nearly $670 million US from a sprawling collection of shanties and makeshift mini-factories.
The city of Delhi was by far one of the most culturally enriching parts of the GIP. We started out with a visit to the the Qutab Minar, a 73 meter high “tower of victory” built by Qutab ud-din Aibak after his defeat of India’s last Hindu kingdom built between 1200 AD first Aibak and then completed by his successor in 1368 AD.
Another great experience was our entire group’s ride through the streets of Old Delhi in a caravan of about 15 or so rickshaws—3 wheeled carts powered by a human on a bicycle. While much of urban India has evolved beyond tight, super-crowded streets lined with merchants and crowded with pedestrians, livestock and human-powered carts, it was nice to see that this glimpse of the past has been preserved in pockets for newcomers to experience and appreciate.
The most breathtaking experience in Delhi (and perhaps the entire trip) was our visit to the Akshardham Baha’i temple. Akshardham is the single most magnificent structure that I have ever seen in person; and many others agreed with that sentiment.
Some other interested experiences in Delhi included seeing a live Bollywood show, attending an event for Wharton alumni dressed in traditional Indian clothing and getting lost in a rickshaw at about 1am leaving an after party from that event with two classmates.
While in Delhi, we rode 5 hours south for a 1 day excursion to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and from there a small group of us traveled several hours west to Jaipur. In Jaipur, we visited the Amer fort, the only Hindi (as opposed to Muslim) fort that we visited while in the country.
The tour started with an elephant ride up the side of a mountain range that is considered to be one of the oldest in the world. Apparently, the precious jewels found within that mountain have made India the world’s #1 producer of non-diamond precious stones.
The India GIP was an unforgettable experience that I highly recommend. More than anything else, it made me just that much more excited about future travel adventures while at Wharton.