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A Letter from Camp India: India Trek 2006

Dear Mom & Dad,
Camp India was a lot of fun. We had two fabulous camp counselors. They introduced us to all sorts of important political and business leaders and took us to all of the best tourist sites across the country. Our day counselor, Ankit (OH), set up meetings with the ex-Minister of Defense and Finance, the Maharaja of Jodphur and even the President of India. Thanks to the inquisitiveness of our campers, we learned a lot about their perspective on global warming and India’s role in the world economy. And then our night counselor, Angad (OC), showed us how to party with the Bombay elite and even took us on a 14-hour overnight train ride, which was a party in and of itself (PING).

We began our journey in New Delhi. First, we met with the Railway Minister, who runs the largest railway network in the world. You may have even seen my picture in the newspapers because there were over 200 reporters there to document the event. We then took a rickshaw ride through Old Delhi and its colorful markets. We started out our Indian cuisine adventure with dinner at Bukhara, the best Indian restaurant in Delhi, and finished off the night at a local watering hole called Dublin. After Delhi, we went to the Pink City, Jaipur (Counselor Ankit’s hometown), where many of us had our first elephant rides at the Amber Fort. Then came the infamous overnight train ride to Jaisalmer. (Hey Mom, trivia question: how do you fit 100 HBS’ers into two train cars? The answer is: bunk beds, cuddling and a whole lot of PONG.)

The other counselor had gone ahead to set up our next campsite: magical tents in the desert, with real beds and all the amenities you would find at a true traditional five-star hotel. Camel rides, sunsets on the sand dunes, kite flying, DJs flown in from Bombay, and an open bar characterized our stay in the desert. For dinner we were treated to a freshly roasted goat and a performance of traditional Rajasthani music and dance. I hope New Year’s was fun back at home. We celebrated New Year’s with a bang, literally: here’s a picture of our own private fireworks show. After New Year’s in Jaisalmer, we went to Jodphur and met the Maharaja in his palace.

And then, on to Bombay (Counselor Angad’s hometown), donning the latest in pashmina styles and dazzling Indian jewelry, we took the city by storm. We stayed at the nicest hotel in all of India, the famous Taj Bombay where we pampered ourselves with massages and ate like maharajas. Guess what? At one of our rare business meetings during the trek, we even ran into Camp Barton (Wharton in Hindi). They’re really smart and really good with numbers. But I think our group was more attractive.at least according to Mr. Tata, who decided to meet only with us. It wasn’t all work and no play though. Later that night, we went to one of the most exclusive clubs in all of India-Priv‚. I would love to tell you all the stories from that night, but you know what they say.”What happened at Priv‚, stays at Priv‚.”

After that we went to what most Indians consider God’s own country, Kerala. We spent a full day on a cruise exploring the small river inlets in this jungle region. After the cruise we were treated to a fascinating traditional South Indian performance that taught us the complex ways in which our faces can signal emotions. Dad, did you know that the face for “making inquiries” is a little bit like the face for “I’m feeling contemptuous right now.” Who knew? Sensing an end to our great adventure, the campers made a particular effort in late-night bonding. From Kerala we returned to Delhi to our final destination: Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We made a stop at McDonald’s and it brought out the kids in the campers. Some of them even had McBuffet (ordering every single dish on the menu). It was an amazing capstone for our journey (the Taj Mahal!). But before heading back to Delhi, we stopped at a rural village where HBS students have contributed to the creation of a school. The visit gave us a fascinating perspective of rural India, where 70% of India lives.

All in all, Camp India was absolutely phenomenal. We took every mode of transportation imaginable, from rickshaw rides in Delhi to elephants at the Amber Fort in Jaipur, camels in the Jaisalmer desert, an overnight train, a boat cruise in Kerala and flights back and forth across the country. We met with numerous business and political leaders, mingled with locals, saw all the sights and partied the nights away. Thanks to our great camp counselors for putting this together!

February 5, 2007
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