For those of you intrigued by the title, I did not go to India for a Bollywood audition (though I was close to getting offers). You see, this blog will focus on my recent trip to India in December 2015, where I completed an engineering internship at a thermal power plant; pretty fancy, right? Alongside getting technical experience, I also gained personal experience, as this was a very unique journey. There were many things I was scared of, but at the same time, I happened to enjoy every aspect of it. If you planning to go India, then I suggest you read this blog, so you know the sort of strategies I took in ensuring everything went smoothly (well, almost).
29th November. 12.00am. It had been 4 years since I had touched on Indian soil. What was it like? Well for starters, I had the opportunity to stroll around a really fancy airport as I had not seen the recent upgrades. Everything was bright and shiny until we landed in the immigration line, which took around 20-40 mins. From there onwards, my father, brother and myself made our way to the airport exit. I realised that from this point on, I would be starting a completely different adventure; I realised that I wouldn’t be seeing Australia for another 2 months at least. No more speaking fluent English; it was time to layout my Hindi dictionary and start speaking in broken Hindi.
A week into my arrival, I took part in a range of activities that included getting food poisoned pretty badly (personal favourite), meeting extended family, learning about the public transport system & learning about how the Indian system works. On Saturday 5th December, I officially began my training at a company called TATA Power, where I had the opportunity to be trained at the Trombay Generating station, located in Mumbai. My first day was mostly induction, where I learned about the company’s history and ideologies. Thanks to my uncle, I was introduced to various members of his department and my own. Over the course of 1 month, I gained a lot of technical experience in my field, having moved around various departments and witnessing the work that took place. While I didn’t take pictures around the power plant, I can definitely say that it was a really cool thing to see.
Ok, so I gained technical experience; what about the personal experience? What was it like for Nikhil Kulkarni to be in a country he hadn’t been in 4 years? How would Nikhil handle the language, the system, the people? Well, to be honest, I think everything worked rather well; of course, if we just forget the food poisoning experience and focus on the good stuff, then I can say I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Of course, living in India is a completely different experience to living in Australia, as I felt everything worked backwards. One of the biggest things I noticed was the traffic management, which was handled very poorly as road rules and traffic lights are virtually ineffective. Buses also operate very differently as there is a bus driver and bus conductor, who assigns you a ticket depending on where you go. Getting down from the bus is also an unsafe experience as there are no doors; you can literally jump on or step out of a bus as it is leaving or arriving. Though there are rules emphasizing bus and traffic safety, these are usually ignored. Of course, my journey from my home to TATA Power required using the bus and the initial experience was rather frightening as I would just casually nod at a person regardless of what they were saying to me; nevertheless, I became more confident in traveling from Destination A to Destination B, every morning and every evening.
Trains are a little different as well as there are no closing doors (especially if you live in Mumbai). While I never really used the train that much, I can definitely say that it was a wonderful experience, as it wasn’t as crowded as I imagined. The best part of riding public transport in India was seeing how active and vibrant the city life is, the words spoken from everyday citizens, the heavy duty traffic; for some reason, it was an incredible feeling. Regardless of what the city looked like, there was definitely an atmosphere around the place. The city and accommodation were relatively close to each other, so there was always time to explore the busy streets.
What else was good about Nikhil’s experience in India? The food of course! Ok, I know I faced problems initially, but its only once in a while you get proper Indian food! I cannot express how amazing the food was; I can definitely say that for once in my life, I had the proper chance of living the Indian dream! Cuisine in India is a very big thing and there are a range of foods available due to the number of sub-Indian cultures present. I was having food from all parts of India and it was absolutely glorious.
All in all, I can say this was a rather unique experience; there were some positive and negative moments but overall, I can say it was a worthwhile trip. Having said that, if any of you are planning to make a trip to India, there are many things that can make your journey unpleasant. I’ve noted some tips down below for anyone planning a Bollywood experience.
- First of all, make sure you are up to date with your health. Getting immunisations is very important as the environment and atmosphere is very different. Pollution is mostly everywhere, so if you want to protect yourself, either wear a mask or wrap a handkerchief around your face.
- Be careful of where you eat! It’s better to eat at decent restaurants & cafes as the hygine is generally better there. Eating from public stalls can be fun, but can also be very dangerous. I never ate at any public stalls because I know my tummy would not handle it.
- Everything is cheap! If you want to do some shopping and eating, then definitely go for it! Everything is ridiculously cheap here, so if you are interested in buying clothes or electronic items (like headphones or mobiles) you can definitely do it. However, I’d recommend going to decent stores, so that you are not ripped off. And of course, save up some money before you head abroad.
- Learning Hindi is a difficult task and if you don’t watch Bollywood movies regularly, then it can be a little bit harder. Nevertheless, I always carried around a Hindi dictionary with me and I even wrote down words that I would have to say when I’m travelling or buying something. You can easily pick up words once you’re there, but from my experience, just learn a little bit of Hindi before you go! (Note, I was very shy when speaking in Hindi because everyone would make fun of me, so most of the time I pretended to be mute).
- If you are a foreigner traveling to India, then make sure you stay with someone you trust! Crime is very rampant in India and I can say I was fortunate enough to have nothing happen to me, but for any foreigners planning on traveling, please be with someone you can rely on.
- Make sure you never wear headphones when traveling outside; it is not a cultural thing, but because the traffic is handled very poorly, you may never know when something is coming up behind you! I never wore headphones when traveling on the bus or walking in the city because I had to be very observant of what was happening around me. Likewise, I suggest all of you take this very seriously; you may see other Indians walking around with headphones, but as a foreigner (and yes that was me), I’d highly advise not wearing them when traveling outside.
Overall, this was a worthwhile journey I’d made. There were some challenges when settling in, but I can say I definitely enjoyed it while I was there. Of course, I’d like to end this blog by thanking the many people who were part of this adventure. I’d like to personally thank my uncle, Mr Hemant Karadkar, for helping me through this internship; without his support or guidance, I don’t think I would have fared well. Your continual advice was something I admired greatly.
I’d also like to thank my uncle Mr. Shridar Kulkarni, my cousins, Omkar and Unmesh Kulkarni and my aunty, Mrs Mary Eapen for helping me settle into India. I also like to thank Mr. Belekar, who helped my family and I settle in Parel (the area I was staying in); again, without their continual support, I don’t think I would have fared very well in my day to day endeavours.
And last but not least, I’d like to thank my family, who took their time to help set up everything for me. We faced many challenges throughout this trip but in the end, we all managed to make it in one piece.
Nikhil Kulkarni signing out!