The countryside was so familiar that it was almost as if they had not left their own country. The college students were so full of energy just like their students back home. And yes, the Taj Mahal was just as they had imagined it!
For the 100-strong Chinese youth delegation whose whirlwind visit across India ended in the Capital on Monday, the two countries are similar in many ways. “The countryside in India is so similar to China that I momentarily forgot that we were in a foreign country. It was only when I saw the people in their traditional dresses that I remembered that I was not in China!” says Ren Fang, executive president of Xijing University, who loved the “very sweet white sweet” served by a host in Varanasi, loved the Taj Mahal and was planning to buy a bright silk sari before leaving the country.
“I had this lovely conversation with this young college student who said he was going to come to China next year to learn Kung Fu. The other students I interacted with were so positive and so full of energy just like my students back home,” says Ji Weimin, whose job as the Standing Commissioner of China Youth and Children Research has him interacting with the young all the time. He says children waved at him everywhere he went and when their bus stopped on the way to Varanasi, he encountered a Gujarati family who were buying mineral water to make their tea. This convinced him that most people in India are prosperous and happy, especially when the family offered him a cup.
Wang Jia is studying at Beihang University and she found on her visit to different universities here that their curriculum was very colourful and wished that there were some more student exchange programmes between India and China. “They have some excellent fine art, dance and social activities like the National Service Scheme,” she says, adding that the whole group encountered something really special on their visit to Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
“We met this professor who teaches Chinese there. She was very fluent and we were so impressed. Her students insisted on talking to us in Chinese, their accents and pronunciations were so nice,” says Li Jiahua, adding that he loved the way the entire city was lit up on the day they landed in the Capital. It was Diwali.
India still holds the sensuous promise of the unknown and our guests were not disappointed. “I have always had the impression of India as a very old and mysterious country. The holy city of Varanasi and the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad reinforced this belief whereas the new expressway from Delhi to Agra convinced me that India is not lacking in modernity and well conditioned infrastructure,” says Wu Jiajia, a journalist with the Economic Daily Press, adding that she is very impressed with the free health care system that India has going.
She was lucky to be invited to an Indian wedding along with her friends in the hotel that they were staying in and she and the rest of her group firmly believe that the happiness index in this country is very high.
The delegation is here at the invitation of the Union Youth Affairs & Sports Ministry as part of efforts to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. There may be a bigger delegation of about 500 youth visiting next February. The youth delegation exchange programme has been running between the two countries for the past seven years.