1) Make sure you don’t over commit yourself.
Volunteering can be a deeply rewarding and a fun experience. Yes, you want to contribute to the NGO’s or Not for Profit’s but try and make sure that you are not overdoing it. You are there to help and have fun, not to feel guilty for what you have. So first research the kind of facilities, boarding, food etc you will be eating and how many days you will get off before venturing into India.
2) Hello Delhi Belly!
Your first few days are the most important ones in India. Try not to eat Non Veg during the first few days and eat yogurt as much as possible. Bottled water is a big yes yes. Give your body at least 2-3 days to get accustomed to the Indian food and spices. So for the first couple of days take extra precautions.
3) Traffic, Transport, Holy cow and Beggars
Don’t get confused by the traffic and the noise in India. It’s Okie to toot the horn and there is always something some noise in most of the metros. If you are looking for a somewhat serene place to volunteer and don’t want to be stuck in the metro, then choose your locations accordingly.
It’s a good omen to see a cow blocking traffic in the middle of the road. No not really but Cows are considered auspicious, so if something is auspicious why go into the why’s of so and so.. There is a lot of poverty in India as well, and hence you will see quite a lot of people begging in the streets too. Try and carry 5-10 rupee denomination notes with you when you are in India. Let’s face it you are going to give money to beggars in India so if you want to give; be smart about it. Try and give money when you are about to get in the car or leaving the place. Unless of course you want to feel like a celebrity. If you are wondering why, you will know once you are in India.
4) Eat Love Pray
The food is great especially if you are vegetarian, people are good they love seeing and meeting foreigners and it’s the spiritual hub of the world. When it comes to spirituality try and make up your own mind about it. Even if you are non-religious and an NGO is run by a religious organisation try and understand the fact that it’s hard to raise money without bringing religion into it. So it’s not necessarily that the people in that organisation adhere to that faith so don’t be perturbed by the fact that some NGO is run by a religious organisations as such. It’s okie to volunteer with them. Most of the people in India are very welcoming and loving. Infact a guest in India is seen an avatar of God. If you wanted to learn Yoga or meditation and didn’t know how to get started this would be a good place to start. Infact there are some asana/postures in Yoga which have been patented by the yoga PR actioners.
5) Have Fun!
India is a mixture of different faiths, beliefs and the world’s largest democracy. Don’t get bogged down by the helplessness of some of the people living in India or something’s that you might witness. Our belief is if you were born to be a Mother Teresa you would have been born as Mother Teresa. You are you and you have a right to be happy and content doing what you are doing. India is a shopper’s paradise. You will learn the art of bargaining. Whatever price is initially offered by the shopkeeper, the actual retail price for the same thing for an average Indian might be close to 30% of the first price. However don’t expect that you are going to get that….. the more Indian you are going to look in terms of clothing, looks ,speech and confidence the better price you are going to get. Learn to speak a few Hindi words and see if you can fake it and tell them that you have been living in India for the past couple of years but in a different place to where they are now.. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!