India is the land of a rich culture. India is also the land that houses the extremities of opulence and poverty. I saw both faces of the country that nurtured the first advanced civilization. I noted the unscrupulous business men bribing officers; I took note of the workingman perspiring, trekking in the fiery sun, heaving an insufferable weight on his back. In spite of the disheartening sights, I admired the RigVedic hymns that subjected my body to a pious metamorphosis. I gazed in awe at the Brahmi scripts inscribed into figurines and pillars. In addition to revering the elaborate letters and internalizing the Hindu mantras, I witnessed trends – trends that in previous visits had been dismissed or concealed from my myopic, childish thinking. This time, however, an epiphany emerged. I suddenly learned why my parents had urged me so frequently to concentrate my energies on studies and not on leisure, and why initiative and motive never died in a country where begging and illiteracy were the ultimate vices.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
In America, a thorough education is a gateway to success. Aside from the wide scope of the arch of education lie smaller, multiple passages to higher education and opportunity; among these are are athletics, leadership, and pastimes. In India, only one gateway stands erect. In a nation of cricket fans, industrialization, urbanization, and poverty, the theory of a solid education holds firm in the minds of youths and elderly alike.
My summer vacation was spent in Hyderabad, India, where my father had a conference, and where I had many relatives in the midst of their intermediate and collegiate schooling. Visiting family members around town, my visit mainly consisted of small talk and questions about education.
My cousin is not much older than I, and he is in the upper echelons socioeconomically. Upon greeting my aunt and uncle with traditional salutations and a worshipping of their feet (respect to elders), my cousin and I raced to the apartment gaming room, in which there was a table tennis station. Relaying the ping pong ball to and fro, we discussed a number of issues including college admissions, SAT test, and preposterous Indian parenting.
My cousin mentioned the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – the most prestigious educational institute in India. My cousin grieved to me. His exam scores were in the ninety-fifth percentile, yet his competitors in the national board exam were scoring ninety-eighth and ninety-ninth percentile. My cousin lamented that he would be rejected by IIT, and even if he were accepted at a lower rank, the school would give him no academic freedom; he would not be able to select his own courses, campus, or living quarters.
While nodding and giving my sympathetic assents to his grievances, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my grandfather. My grandfather, a renowned linguist and pioneer in Dravidian languages, was a product of University of Pennsylvania. But this accomplishment did not come without adversity. My grandfather decanted vivid images of his adolescence; studying in the streetlights, unable to pay for tuition. Education alone lighted my grandfather’s path, and no athletics and pastimes offered entrance to him.
After I bade farewell to my cousin, I sauntered down the street. Roadside businesses and small shops scattered the polluted roadsides; drainage pipes and ascetic sanyasis loitered on the unfinished, abandoned streets. People were struggling to make ends meet, yet they pursued education with a determination unseen anywhere else. In this impoverished, yet culturally rich land I understood the origins of this mentality. In India, no outlets are available; no passion serves as a conduit to success, other than a passion for education.
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