Ede & Ravenscroft Award 2002-2003

Report by Katy Rook department of Social Sciences

South India

This summer I spent one month travelling round the south of India carrying out research for my dissertation. My dissertation primarily concentrates on backpackers and whether once in India they outdoor market experience authentic Indian food or whether their diet consisted of ‘safe ‘food that they were familiar with.

After a fourteen hour flight I arrived in Calcutta. My first impressions of the city were not good. I thought that the city was dirty, grubby and needed a rubbish disposal system rather than the current one which is the road or gutters. Nonetheless, it did gradually grow on me and I soon learnt to look past my initial horrors see more. This brought both anguish and admiration. Poverty is such a large part of anywhere in India you have to be walking around with your eyes shut not to notice. Disabled people seem to be prominent along with women and children. Six year olds would be carrying a baby in their arms and have a toddler obediently by their sides begging for money from anyone that came near them.

food served on a banana leafSeeing as my main objective was focused around food I found myself trying a lot of foods that I would have normally not have tried and preferred not to know where they came from. But I couldn’t go all the way to India and not try the local cuisine. It wasn’t actually too bad, I just had to be careful and gauge how spicy things were otherwise there was the very real risk of getting ill.

Whilst in India I also took it upon myself to stay in an orphanage for a couple children of the orphanageof days and teach English and organise for the internet to be installed, providing invaluable communication link to the charities in England that help to support them financially. Once at the orphanage I was able to question people and see what a traditional meal would be like and find out what people on a minimal budget ate from day to day.

As India is such an enormous country and has a vast range of landscapes; deserts, mountains, flatland, Ganges and the beaches it was my aim to try and experience them all. Nonetheless this would prove to be too great a task due to the travelling distance and time. I did make it to the beaches in Goa and interviewed travellers in a new environment as the speed at which life was carried out was very laid back and slow. The environment was very relaxed and was a nice way to unwind with amazing views, untouched beaches, sunsets and sunrises and dolphins boats at sea swimming just beyond the surf. I also got to take in part of the culture as while interviewing I the beach at Goa struck by a group of men carrying a body along the beach to a pile of wood. They then set the body and the wood and body on fire and threw the ashes into the sea once it was all burnt, apparently this a fairly traditional funeral in Goa.

I had an unique and wonderful experience over the summer and I would like to thank the prize committee for giving me the financial contribution that made it possible.

October  2003
Prizes Committee
Loughborough University
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