My school, Ryan International School, each year organises a cultural exchange program wherein students from various parts of this world come to India and stay for a few days with Indian students. This time we had students from Lithuania joining us here to know about the Indian culture, people, heritage and some other stuff and I got an opportunity to host two Lithuanian students and Edvinas Kazlauskas and Justas Lukošius, the students, were lucky enough to have me as their host!
We had a really tight five-day schedule and I was quite unsure about what was going to happen and how things would go about, as this was the first time I was doing something of this sort but as it turns out it went quite well.
So this is going to be kind of like a recap of the things I learnt during these days while the dance group Čiučiuruks from Telšiai, Lithuania was in India and while they were staying with Indian families.
So I studied a little bit about their dance group Čiučiuruks and found out that it was first started in 1989 by Rita Macijauskiene who was also accompanying the group. The group has already performed in countries like Finland, France, Turkey, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Macedonia, Austria, Ukraine, Mexico, Russia, Slovakia, Portugal, Sicilia, Taiwan, Serbia, Belgia, Sardinia (Italy) and now India!
It was a really fun time that I spent with the group, we visited some places in and around Delhi, had a variety of Indian food- from North Indian food to South Indian food and more importantly learnt about the culture of each others’ country.
Starting off with the first big highlight of this adventure- Taj Mahal. I had visited Taj Mahal two times before this but the last time I saw that beauty it was 8-9 years back, which is a very long time and I was really excited to visit Taj Mahal. And I was not at all disappointed, neither were our guests I believe. They loved it. Even more interesting part was to learn the history of the beautiful structure, the reason for which it was built, the way it was built and everything else. I still think how can a person even think of building something this beautiful let alone build it and make his love for his wife immortal.
The icing on the cake was visiting Agra Fort after Taj Mahal. It is the place where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in order to gain the Mughal throne and after eight years Shah Jahan died in the Agra Fort only. The fort was again an example of brilliant architecture.
More than Taj Mahal, I fell in love with the Lithuanian folk songs, honestly speaking I didn’t get a word of it but somehow I understood everything, the emotions. I still sometimes find myself humming their songs and funnily enough, I still don’t understand their meaning.
Similar is the case with their dances. As much as I have studied about their dance on the web, I’ve found that in the songs there are a lot of comparisons. Human life is equated to plants, especially trees, life, there is asked of birds and animals help. I especially remember their song, Little Bear, which as I’ve learnt was performed after winters to wake up bears from their sleep and come back in the forests. It was a little unfortunate to know that there are no more bears left in Lithuania but they still perform it.
The first day with Edvinas and Justas was very funny because they were fascinated by the Indian roads and the traffic. The first question thrown by them at us was ‘Why do people on the roads always keep beeping?’ It is actually a very interesting thing that we Indians don’t usually acknowledge about the stuff that happens on the roads. People are continuously beeping, no one is really following the traffic rules, people rash driving and what not. Maybe we have now become used to it and we think that this is the way things are and are not wanting to change it which actually must be changed.
Another great thing I noticed in the Lithuanians was that they were really patriotic, they cared a lot about their country. When Justas was talking about their relations with Russia now or about the Holocaust in Lithuania, I could feel that he was really sad about all of what had happened. Which was in a way a good thing to learn about them and we must learn that from them.
On the final day when they were asked about their experience in India they were also asked what message they’d like to give to the Indians and one of their group mates, Eglė Adomaitytė, said that Indians are very warm to their guests but not as helpful or supportive to fellow Indians. And this made me think, is it really like this? And I thought it was true, we follow the saying of Atithi devo Bhava meaning, a guest is like God but do we treat each other that way? I’m still thinking of an answer to this question.
Hosting this group of 22 Lithuanians has changed me in many ways and I feel this was the highlight of this year. There is a lot more left to tell about this cultural exchange program but I’m thinking of writing a sequel to this blog talking about the other things that I’ve left in the blog, till next time, keep reading and keep enjoying..!