Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme
Welcome to Cairo or How I got to India
There is nothing otherworldly about Cairo. That's what I found returning from the UK after Christmas. I'd been in Egypt since September and, before the break, wrote of discovering a new world. In that world, day well-spent must include no more than a little study, some eating, a shower and a walk for exercise. Having once taken them for granted, I counted myself lucky to have electricity, running water, a roof over my head, and my physical safety. In that world, working as an intern at the British Council had been difficult to justify. My work was not only irrelevant - most of my time was spent with Egyptians fortunate enough to be in university or making profit in the creative industries, that is, more fortunate than millions struggling to feed their families - it was wrong. The air-conditioned office and its deliciously-overpriced macchiatos were mine to take or leave as I liked. Others were not given such access. In the pre-Christmas world, I asked myself why that was. Who made it that way? If I expected to find that same world, that same personal struggle here in India, I was disappointed. So far, there is nothing otherworldly about India, either.
My internship at Tata Medical Centre has proved more comfortable than I am comfortable with. There is air conditioning here, too, and, trumping Cairo, the city has provided four houseboys to cook my meals and top up my soap supply. But that doesn't mean I've not learnt anything. The pre-Christmas world vanished because I came to a realisation. I was never a part of an alternate world. Had I denied myself the Council's air-conditioning and macchiatos for the rest of my life, I wouldn't have been part of an alternate world. Because what made me different from millions less fortunate was that, the minute my fickle mind changed, those things were mine once more. Freedom of choice is what I was born with and others were not. That freedom I can not give up any more effectively than I can my skin colour or my education. I can choose not to use that golden ticket, but doing so in the hope that another will be admitted in my place doesn't work. Emulating poverty never alleviates it. That's how I justified an expensive trip to India, a trip not everyone can choose to take. And that's the lesson I have learnt again over here. I haven't stepped into a new world. But I have learnt about doctor-patient relations in the hospital, and about how my research can help build a communication skills course for doctors. I've learnt about my future opportunities. I've explored what I need to learn before I'm able to give as much to the world as I'd like to. The process is ongoing.