Culture and Engineering in India

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During the May session of 2015 I traveled to India for ten days. We touched down in Delhi and made our way to Agra and then to Jaipur before returning back to Delhi to complete what they call the “golden triangle” of north India. We had visited many different monuments such as the Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Amer Fort, and Jantar Mantar which were magnificent in their age, size, and beauty. In Jaipur we met with Dr. Jain who introduced us to the Jaipur foot –  a modular prosthetic leg made affordable to the average Indian. Dr. Jain enlightened us with the history behind the Jaipur foot, its development, and production process. Returning back to Delhi we completed a service project we had been working on the semester before. We visited an orphanage and lead in activities that were geared towards teaching the children.

Needless to say, experiences like these are transformational. Experiences like these involve entering into the unknown and learning how to see life from a different perspective. I think that this trip helped shaped the direction in which I my academic, professional, and personal life were going; towards a career in prosthetics and more adventure.

Before this trip I was entering into my junior year without any experience in the field I was pursuing – material science engineering. I was concentrating in biomaterials but did not know much about what that meant. On this trip the Jaipur foot helped open my eyes to the connection someone like me had to something like this in a place halfway around the world. This implant was something that was developed out of a problem that was all too often seen in India and from its inception has touched the lives of many across the world. I liked this idea of improving the lives of our neighbors and having that act grow into something able to improve the lives of strangers.

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I suppose our visit to the orphanage in Delhi kept this idea flowing. We spent the day with these children and it taught me something. These kids just wanted to be loved. They wanted someone to play with, someone to give them attention, someone to appreciate their humor (no matter how silly they were). One girl had asked me my name and how to spell it. I looked at the page to see what she came up with and found in blue crayon the word “bhaiya” sitting next to my name. I later found out that bhaiya is Hindi for brother.

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We have the power to change the world through love. All you gotta do is love the person next to you, treat him like your bhaiya (or didi if you want to say sister). Karma is a Hindu idea of how the sum of our actions and intents influences our future – what goes around comes around. Dr. Sethi was the man who invented the Jaipur foot and by the principle of karma brought me to India to learn how to move forward in his and my life. It didn’t take much, just a lust for adventure, a little luck, and an open mind, and things just seemed to connect.

This trip was beneficial to me because it gave me direction. It gave me some perspective into what a material science engineer is capable of and how they effect others. I am now have an intership pursuing research in tissue engineering to help myself, my neighbors, and people who I may never meet. The world is a big place but STEP has helped me realize that it’s much smaller than I think.

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