Riding in the car today in the first day of our internship, I had mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement. I was excited to be able to work with public health officials and doctors, people who I look up to and admire. But at the same time I was nervous; our project is traffic safety, and it seems every person we tell this to laughs in our face and wishes us “good luck”. I began to question whether or not we will be able to make an impact.
My mind also kept circling back to a conversation I had with Amanda, after we were heading back from doing our interviews. We were shocked to learn that a local shopkeeper believed that burning garbage was good for the earth. We wanted the SJC student, Ruthvik, to tell him this wasn’t true, but he said he couldn’t. He said the shopkeeper wouldn’t believe us, because we were outsiders. This idea contradicted what we had also previously been told, that people may view foreigners as much more educated, so why would they not listen to us if that was their thought process? After going over this, Amanda simply stated that knowledge is not power here like it is in America. And I don’t mean that in the sense that it doesn’t matter, I mean that to have this idea of “power” or knowledge you need to be able to show that you have power, by making changes or literally proving you have power. The organizations we are working with prove their knowledge through creating change in the community, like making an ugly pillar into a piece of art. When we did this, we were not recognized for being well-educated students, but for our actions instead, and how we were doing something good for Bangalore.
But there is also a darker side to this. Ruthvik informed us that people don’t talk about their politics in public as much for fear of being threatened. He told us that ministers run politics in India, and they have a crowd of bodyguards behind them figuratively holding swords. This is what we meant by showing that you have power. This is vastly different than the idea of power in America, where in the past people that worked like this such as gangs and mafias tried to stay underground, but here they may be more out in the open. There seems to be a power dynamic surrounding everything in India, from us being foreigners, to the caste system and to simply being a woman.
Being aware of this power dynamic, we need to find ways that we can best utilize our knowledge to make an impact in Bangalore.