Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme
My India Experience
Growing up under the tutelage of my grandmother in Ghana, because my parents had divorced, as young as two years old, the need for service to mankind had begun to be instilled in me. A disciplinarian, she was a fountain from whom I had fetched hard work, integrity, compassion, determination, and service others. Anytime we went fishing, to the farm, or to draw water from the Volta river, she had always told me: “My son, work hard in order to be successful and serve people.” This has been etched on my memory so much so that everything I do is with the view to fulfilling the aforementioned admonition. Throughout the course of my life, I have never relented in my conviction that the onus lies on us, the current generation, to work tirelessly to make a difference and, more importantly, to make the world a better place than we inherited.
My decision to come to India to take part in the Tata ISES scheme stems from this conviction. This desire was partly informed by the fact that I can apply the expertise I acquire to development projects in Ghana. Tata’s conscious effort to give back to society endeared me to its projects.
Moreover, I believe solving the plethora of problems that have plagued our society requires strong and effective leadership and problem solving skills.. I am sure this will help me acquire the frameworks with which to understand the challenges of leading in a complex and ever-changing environment like India ( a developing country which shares much in common with Ghana), and to seek the knowledge and skills necessary to be an effective leader and problem solver.
At 9:15pm on June 9th 2013, I was about to board the British Airways flight 199 leaving for Mumbai. As I boarded the flight, I was drenched in mixed feelings. The hour had finally come for me to experience the much-talked-about “Incredible India.” My skin tingled and my heart pounded in an inexplicable presentiment of the adventure that lay ahead. Nine hours later, I had set foot in this amazing land called India. Right at the Tata office, I witnessed a scintilla of the hospitality and culture that permeates the entire Indian society. I have been amazed at India’s rich culture, delicious food and the diversity of its people. Being a Black man, I often see people whose skin tone is almost as dark as mine. I am often tempted to call them Black, but I often resist this temptation. This experience has really challenged me to ponder what being Black actually means. Is it determined by skin tone, having African origins or just a way of life? One evening upon returning from work, I saw a commercial on television for skin bleaching products that will help people that are dark-skinned become Whiter and look more beautiful. I witnessed, in disbelief, a few people who claimed they were dark-skinned and had become Whiter and happier as a result of using this product. I was dumbfounded and could not believe my eyes. After giving this much thought and asking a few Indians, I realized that this is a belief that is rooted in culture. That beauty itself is sometimes defined differently by people, and that our perceptions have their underpinnings in our culture and upbringing. I wish I could teach them to love themselves just the way they are. That you do not have to be White or light-skinned to look beautiful. Inasmuch as I believe I am Black, was created in the image of God and look just as beautiful, I came to the utter realization that this Euro-centric view of beauty transcends the shores of India, because even Jesus Christ and God are believed to be White men as far as most Christians are concerned. Even in Africa, this view of beauty still lingers. Perhaps India may not necessarily be at fault for her White-centric view of beauty. It is also wrong to generalize the perceptions of a few people to an entire population.