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'There is more to India than just Slumdog Millionaire'

Last updated on: January 11, 2010 16:18 IST

'There's more to India than Slumdog Millionaire'

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Prasanna D Zore in New Delhi


Two students of Indian origin, one from Chile and the other from the United States of America, would go back to their respective countries with cherished memories and cleansed of all the prejudices of the land where their ancestors were born.

And they think that the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi must be thanked for their changed perspective about India.

A part of the 13th Know India Program sponsored by Ravi's MOIA, both Komal Dadlani, a 3rd year student of biochemistry from Universidad de Chile; and Geetika Gandhi, pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy program from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, US; were in India as part of a batch of 40 students from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Suriname, Trinidad, the United States and Zimbabwe.

Know India Program, a three-week internship programme for the Diaspora youth conducted by the MOIA, promotes awareness on India, its socio-cultural diversity, her all round development, her emergence as an economic powerhouse, India being a centre of higher education and the ongoing developments in various fields, including infrastructure and information technology.

They had been travelling since December 20, 2009 through Kerala and Rajasthan en route to Delhi to attend the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2010 held in the capital from January 7-9 this year. The tour ends on January 20. Click NEXT to read on further. . .


Image: Komal Dadlani, a 3rd year student of biochemistry from Universidad de Chile.
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
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"Programmes like these help build a stronger relationship between the Indian Diaspora and their country of origin," says Komal about why she decided to enroll for this programme.

"I will use this visit to strengthen the relationships between the NRIs in Chile and India," she says.

Interestingly, both Komal and Geetika, who are now going gaga over India's culture, heritage and economic prosperity, had their own prejudices about India.

"There is more to India than just the poverty and inhumanity depicted in the Bollywood film Slumdog Millionaire," says Geetika about her changed impressions about India. She had watched the movie in the US and had got her impressions about India from the film.


Image: Geetika Gandhi, who is pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, US.
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
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"My opinion about India has changed completely," she says, describing how wonderful, wise, patient, humble and warm the people she made friends with during her brief tour in India were.

"Nowhere in the world would you find the youth respecting their elders and peers so much," says an awed Komal even as she compares Chile's culture with India's.

"No doubt India's culture, lifestyle and economy are better," says Komal "and I plan to come back to India soon as it is emerging as a land of opportunity where I can make some difference in the field of Ayurveda and biotechnology."

Geetika, too, is interested in serving underprivileged Indians and had had a firsthand experience when she worked for an NGO Yuva Parivartan on her last trip to India.


Image: A tourist holds tourist guide books as she visits the Red Fort in the old quarters of Delhi.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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"I learnt a lot from that experience and my current tour of India has helped me understand the problems faced by people of different regions of India," Geetika says.

While Geetika is not too sure about her ambitions, she says that she will teach students in the US about the richness of Ayurveda "because many professors there don't know much about its benefits."

Apart from that she would like to engage herself in community service to offer medical relief to people in the US as well as in India and start a classical dance class to teach the Indian Diaspora.

"I want to make a difference to the world. I don't want to just fill my pockets with money and not make a difference," is how Komal sums up her ambition.


Image: Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi
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