In June 2013 I had the incredible opportunity of travelling to Bangalore, India, with several other undergraduates as part of the Grand Challenges programme inaugurated that year. The trip focused specifically on culture, heritage, and patrimony; and a real highlight of the trip for me at least was visiting a rural village in the south of India.
We visited the village in context of the fact that heritage is not objective, but a cultural concept embodying certain values and ideals. What was fascinating was the separation, or difference, between Western and Eastern heritage and cultural values. We spent our time in the village going into different houses and seeing how rural Indians lived. Though it wasn’t ideal for people who suffer from claustrophobia (!) or those who are tall (like me) and thus run the danger of banging their heads unsuspectingly, we were all, I think, in awe of the simplicity and calmness of life in the village compared with the busy and energetic nature of Bangalore.
Gandhi himself said that the soul of India lies in its villages, and this was crystal clear to me when visiting this village. Not only are villages self-sustaining but they are not dependent on cities, instead being heavily agriculture-based. Though other aspects of the trip were maybe a bit more enthralling or outstanding (a.k.a. riding an elephant, I kid you not!) this was such a highlight because visiting the village opened our eyes to what life is like for ordinary people in southern India. They don’t need lots of money, or the latest technology, or cars. They get by on the very minimum, but preserve traditional values and enjoy strong family relations. There’s something endearing and sweet about that, for me at least.
by Conor Byrne