Nikhila RaviUniversity of Cambridge

Every time I visit India I am captivated by the diverse array of sights, smells, sounds, and people and the stark contrast to the comfy London life I am used to. Having visited my family in India almost every year since the age of five, I didn’t expect this trip to be a significant cultural shock for me. But without the safety and protection of family members, and with my Tamil language skills being useless in North India, it has been quite a different experience. Something that always strikes me though is the social dissonance. Living in a fancy high rise apartment with an air conditioned car and driver cannot shield you from the beggars knocking on your car window. Coming from an Engineering background, the only real connection I had to CSR was a class on ‘Engineering in Society’ which I shamefully remember I didn’t pay much attention in. But learning about TATA’s social centric approach, right from the structure of the company to each firm’s individual initiatives made a deep impression on me. In a society where business is primarily driven by the bottom line, it is refreshing to see a global giant like TATA take such a unique stand. An internship like this probably came at a good time for me. I think I am at a crossroads in life where I am trying to decide between a cozy corporate job in a consulting firm or the harder path of studying medicine and reaching out to help people in their time of need. I figured eight weeks in a cancer hospital would probably help me choose. So far it’s been a challenging experience to say the least. It took a few days just to get used to the smell of being in a hospital and seeing so many tubes, cannulas, beeping machines, beds of emaciated, bald patients and the throng of anxious family members. But working in a cancer hospital has really shown me how fragile our lives are. The diverse range of patients here makes it so clear that cancer doesn’t look at social class, bank balance, gender or age before it manifests. It’s something which could affect any of us, any day. Aside from the grim thoughts on cancer, there’s definitely been a few ups and downs of being in a hospital. It’s been impossible to avoid getting a few nasty infections, but on the plus side it helps when your project buddy is qualified to prescribe you antibiotics! I expected this trip to be different and it certainly has been. It’s not often that I get chai and biscuits delivered to my room in England, deal with cockroaches and bugs, or barter with taxi drivers on a daily basis, but being here with new people instead of my family, I’ve seen a different side to India. Although I now know I could never live here permanently, I’ve learnt so much more about the country of my birth and it has definitely made me want to explore it further.