The 2016 TEL Study Tour to India has been a great success! About two months ago, the 16th of August, 15 TEL students and 2 professors boarded the Emirates flight from Schiphol to Delhi with a short stop in Dubai. In the following two weeks, no less than five different cities were visited:
The first stop was Delhi where we were immediately confronted with the Indian chaos that we had been warned for prior to the trip. The taxi was half an hour late and it took about an hour to travel the 16 kilometres through the busy streets to reach the embassy where we had lunch and got a good impression of Indian politics and the economy and the role of the embassy. After the visit, we travelled to the hotel, which was centrally located in one the busiest streets of New Delhi. The afternoon program was a nice indian dinner at one of the rooftop restaurants close to the hotel overlooking the chaos down below. The next morning we organized a bike tour through Old Delhi. This is the poorer neighbourhood with many beautiful hidden historical sights. After the tour, we visited the Delhi Metro Company, which built the very “western” looking metro system in Delhi in record time. It was amazing to see such an organized, clean, and well working system in the middle of the dirty, unorganized surroundings. After having lunch, we visited Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. Our last day in Delhi consisted of some free time to see the city for yourself, and in the evening a visit to TNT express. The 3 days in Delhi had flown by and it was time for the train to Agra.
We only stayed in Agra one day because other than the famous Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, there is not very much to see or do. We went to see the Taj early in the morning to avoid the crowd. Although parts of the Taj were being renovated it was a beautiful sight and does not fall short of the stories. A guide told us all about the majestic building and after many pictures, we travelled to the Agra Fort, which was also extremely beautiful. Agra was much less crowded than Delhi and seemend like a more modern city. In the evening, we took the train to Jaipur.
Our first day in Jaipur was all culture. We visited the Albert Hall Museum, pretty much a random collection of historical artifacts, the Jantar Mantar, a site with many architerctural astronomy instruments as Indians firmly believe in astrology, and the Hawa Mahal, a palace where the royal household could watch a yearly festival without being seen themselves. The next morning, we visited a local Indian company called Bright Metals. It was both interesting as well as confronting to see the working conditions these people dealt with. Ten hour work days with a half hour lunch break sitting on the ground sorting metal. In the evening, before boarding the flight to Pune, we visited the Amber Fort where it was nice to see some green and nature.
Pune is one of the attractive business locations in India and thus many companies are located here. We visited no less than 5 companies in 3 days. It started off the first day with Mahindra & Mahindra. Mahindra is the largest car manufacturer in India and has an almost completely automated car manufacturing facility. The next company was Bharat Forge Limited, which is a multinational metal forging company. Although this was much more advanced than Bright Metals, still the working conditions sometimes seemed quite dangerous and irresponsible. The second day we visited Vanderlande and Oriental Rubber.
The first is of course a Dutch company and it was nice to immediately see the difference between the operations in this company compared to the earlier visited Indian companies. Oriental Rubber is a rubber manufacturer. Here, we were also invited to a cocktail party after the visit where our professor, Yusong Pang, gave a presentation on one of his research projects on conveyor belts. The last day in Pune, we visited Sandvik, a well-known Swedish tool company after which we finally had some free time to do as we wish. Pune was a very interesting and more “western” looking city than the previous cities. This is of course because of all the companies located there. It had been a very educational but tough couple of days and that took its toll on the students who mostly slept their way through the train ride to Mumbai.
Mumbai was our final destination and we stayed there for 5 days. The first day we visited IIT Bombay in the morning, short for Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. This is a very highly rated university and we could see why. All facilities were very nice and the campus was enormous. The students all live on campus for a fraction of the price that people must usually pay in the central Mumbai. In the afternoon we had drinks at the Dutch consulate where we received some good recommendations for the rest of our stay. The second day consisted of a full day bus tour past all the sights of Mumbai such as the gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
The tour ended with a walk through the Dharavi Slum, the largest slum in India where roughly 1 million people live within 217 hectares. This translates to roughly 2 square meters per person. It is incomprehensible how poor and in what condition these people live. It was quite an uncomfortable but good experience as you realize nothing we have should be taken for granted. The third day we skipped Elephanta Island due to bad weather and instead spent our free day at the Phoenix City Mall for a relaxing day of games, massages, fast food, and shopping. The fourth day we visited Geodis, a logistics company. This was a nice last company visit as it fit perfectly within our TEL background. The last day in India was a free day where half of the group visited the Elephanta island caves and the other half explored Mumbai on their own. We reunited at the cinema where we saw a typical Bollywood comedy, The Flying Jatt. Even though the movie was in Hindi with no subtitles, it was easy to follow and surprisingly funny. The night ended with dinner at the Hard Rock Café.
After 2 weeks of India, we were looking forward to our own beds and the peacefulness of the Dutch roads and landscape. Everyone was worn down but with a big smile on their faces because it had been an amazing trip with a perfect mix of educational, cultural, and personal activities. The flight back went without troubles and there were mixed feelings when everyone parted ways at Schiphol on the 31st of August. One part of you wants to take the train home, where another small part wants to take the earliest plane right back to Incredible India.