Our exuberance seemed to have no bounds to be selected as one among the 15 students representing India. We were to join the 10 other countries participating in the International Camp – 2004. The camp for the International Award For Young People was to be held at Lake District, England. The English gave us a warm welcome as we arrived at Heathrow, London. We stayed with their families, saw their culture and ways of living and were soon met by students from Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Gozo, Macedonia, Spain and Malta at the Doncaster University.

During this fortnight stay, we interacted with a lot of people and it was fascinating to know that some people were acquainted with Indian religions and traditions. But at the same time some questions put forth by the inquisitive lot still refuse to leave my mind. One day, a Spanish team member asked me how was it that we Indians were well dressed, spoke in a refined manner and seemed to come from a very good background, when there was so much poverty in India - India where people sleep on roads, there is unemployment, starvation and people have no clothes to wear.

I froze aghast If somebody was to ask this question decades back, it could be understood as there weren’t enough modes of communication and under slavery India was a chained bird.

Another day while trekking up a mountain, a fellow camper asked, “You wouldn’t be scared of snakes?” My inquisitiveness for him asking such a question was satisfied when I said that I was scared and he asked “Why? Aren’t there snakes and elephants roaming around everywhere in your country?” Another time I was asked how we managed travelling long distances in bullock-carts! I felt it was the pinnacle of ignorance about our country that I would ever see.

We made every attempt possible to erase the wrong notions about India that the youth of the West carried with themselves. The Indians won a lot of accolades for being exceptionally good in all fields. We stayed in London for 3 days. London by night is breathtaking and so we all set out for a walk by the bank of Thames. On our way back to the hotel, my instructor called out and showed me something. There were 3 beggars sleeping on the footpath. I had nothing to say…

As the nation builders of todays India, we need to tell the world what we are. We need to become conscious citizens. Why is it that when we go to their countries we don’t litter but when we are here, we just don’t bother?

Even after 58 years of independence if we do not remove the misconception that still sits in the minds of our western counterparts, it’s a shame — not to the country, but to us.

Give it a thought as ambassadors of our nation, what have we done for our country? Rather than proving ourselves to one another, its time we got together to prove ourselves to the rest of the world.

Anshu Shroff, Ex-student - 2003

As published in the Sacred Heart Convent School Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 2005