Help, Mummy, I’m terrified

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Recently, I was offered to opportunity to travel to Egypt as a cultural ambassador to promote student exchange between Indian and Egyptian students. As much as travel excites me, the spirit of this adventure was dampened by a host of people asking me why I can’t choose another country  besides Egypt, whether it was the right time to go, whether I would face too much trouble getting there.

Pic 1Egypt has always held a great fascination for me and like all children growing up I pictured a land filled with men in their regal headgear, speaking a strange beautiful tongue with mummies lying around every nook and corner. The country also has such a unique geo-political situation- part of the African continent with primarily Arabic roots and culture while going through phases of democratic and military rule.

Recent events have seen the media portray Egypt as a land of youth revolutionaries and extremist leaders. So it comes as no surprise that young people are apprehensive about making a journey to the country and that’s fair. I too, had to tackle protective parents and sceptical friends as well and I just want to give you a first-hand account of what it’s like here.

Pic 4The capital, Cairo is a great place to live and experience for any young person! As an Indian, there are many similarities here that will remind you of home. The people here are warm and hospitable, eager to guess which country you are from and always grinning when they guess right (It seems the Indian accent is a cult favourite here ;)). You can always catch a glimpse of the glorious Nile, no matter which part of the city you are at. The tourist favourites- the pyramids, mummies and the sphinx live up to all the hype they are given. The architecture is exciting, the culture vibrant and the atmosphere lively! Alexandria is yet another beautiful city located by the Mediterranean Sea that will captivate you. From kind, hospitable people to the city’s Greco-Roman remains, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

There are many misconceptions about Egypt. It is a land shrouded in mystery and the news out there spells doom, violent protests and unstable political conditions. All that is far from the truth and if you can trust the testimony of a 22 year old girl travelling there alone, then be assured, it is perfectly safe.

Things you should know:

  • Girls will not be stared at lecherously all the time. Honestly, it’s so much lesser than what is on our own streets.
  • Egypt has misconceptions about India. Maybe so, but they LOVE India and adore Amitabh Bachchan. I guarantee you; you will have a conversation about Indian cinema at least twice in your time there.
  • Everybody there is not a protestor or a revolutionary or an extremist. That ended a year ago and there is no clear and present danger.
  • The country is affordable and reasonable. The value of the Egyptian pound although more than the rupee, can buy you commodities for the same value as in India.

If you have 6 weeks to go for an international internship and are apprehensive about picking Egypt, don’t be. I have had an amazing experience there and it is worth the journey- to witness ancient civilizations and modern day marvels in one bustling metropolis. I am back with fond memories, great friends and a second home to go back to someday soon.

Working Class Heroines


Do we want the door opened for us, or would we rather do it ourselves?

India today is an enigma of many kinds, but on the front of gender sensitization and equality, there is a gaping chasm that separates what a woman can and cannot do. While urban India has awakened and slowly warmed up to the education and employment of girls and women, there seem to be no social advancements to creating a physical, intellectual and emotional environment that supports this. Safety and security of women after dark still looms large and there’s no telling when this dark cloud will disperse.

Urban Indian women today have stepped out of their worn out shoes of being another’s wife, daughter and mother and are boldly striding to workplaces, university classes and their independent homes and defining new, dual roles for themselves. This positive sign is a reflection of a metropolitan societal revolution supporting the advancement of women, but a lot more still remains to be done for India on the whole.

Whether it’s reservation in parliament, compulsory education for the girl child, incentivizing the birth of a girl child or sensitization of society at large, the ‘problem’ of women empowerment and equal opportunities across India still exists. Even more dismal than the policies supporting the rural development of women is the representation of women of character today. Objectified to a fault, women today for the most part are visualized as creatures of desire, rather than beings of substance.

In a focus group interview conducted by AIESEC India, with young girls aged 20-23 across the metropolitan cities, it was startling to note that all of their role models emanated from within their families- grandmother, mother and sister. While this is a positive sign that today’s families have created the right space for their daughters, it is disheartening that no singular female role model comes to the fore of a young woman’s mind.

It may be ungrounded to say that the future of India is inextricably linked to the education, development and employment of women. However, Rahel Chakola, 23, an associate in the field of interactive education in Bangalore believes that the equation is simple: Educated Women = Educated India = Developed India.

AIESEC is an organization that does not discriminate on any grounds, gender included. It is in this organization that I first understood the ability of leadership to transcend gender, race, colour and religion. Ironically, it is here that I have only had girls leading me and heading teams that I was a part of. This is the fabled land of equal opportunity where I witnessed girls succeed and supersede their peers, because of the safe, encouraging and comfortable environment it provided for their personal and leadership development.

AIESEC India Women's Day