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US students' treasured moments with Travancore Maharaja

Coimbatore | Updated on November 15, 2017




When the 29 students from San Diego State University left for India two weeks back on this student exchange programme, they had probably prepared themselves for the four-week educational tour of India and nothing more.

Definitely not until 18 of them got to meet the Maharaja of Travancore, in his palace and for one full hour… These youngsters recall this tryst with awe!

‘I was nervous. As we waited in the hall for the Maharaja to make an appearance, I imagined that there will be some announcement about his entry, but there was no such formality. He walked in, clad in dhoti, simplicity personified and taking us quite by surprise. We were able to interact with him quite freely; he was well-informed and very humble. I can never imagine a person of the Maharaja's stature to be so down-to-earth. This would be the most treasured moment from this trip, I guess,' said Chelsea Daus, a student pursuing graduate programme in advertising.

Though this is Chelsea's maiden trip to India, this is not her first overseas visit. She has travelled to the UK, Australia and few other countries as well. ‘Even when I went on a tour of London, I saw the palace only from a distance,' said this young lady, who had worked for nearly five years before joining the university.

But what caught Josh Truelson's eye was the absence of a Mercedes or BMW or some such luxury car in the patio of the palace. ‘I was truly surprised,' said this youngster, a student of Geography and City Planning.

Each started narrating their palace visit with excitement while their tour-guide M.C. Madhavan, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Asian Studies at San Diego State University, drew our attention to his efforts in getting the Maharaja's appointment through one of his friend, Srinivasan.

These under-graduate students in liberal arts, management and around 10 from the college of nursing are in India to understand Indian culture and socio-economic conditions of the country.

The nursing students will be given exposure in health derivative systems and nursing practices.

They will visit primary health centres and hospitals to understand Indian practices in the field of nursing, the professor said.

Pact with PSG Institutions

Their visit to Coimbatore is part of the MoU, inked between the PSG institutions and the Sandiego State University.

They reached this textile hub after visiting places such as Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kanyakumari and Madurai.

After spending one week here, interacting with industrialists and visiting local hotspots, they will leave for Mumbai and later Delhi and Agra on completion of the course, said Madhavan.

Asked what they liked best this far during this study tour, Josh Truelson said ‘the beach, the palace visit, temple architecture, the Indian culture, religious beliefs and values; your hospitality is truly amazing.'

Detested most

‘So, what did you detest most' we asked, to which Josh almost immediately said ‘the trash, lack of infrastructure..; traffic is chaotic, but seems to work well in your country'.

Asked if the economic slowdown in the US impacted the universities from going ahead with educational tour programmes, Madhavan said ‘not really. The response has so far been very good, but we cannot accommodate more than 30 in a batch. The university supports some students, some get partial funding.'

But Robert Terry, a business management student said ‘the divide between the rich and the poor is truly obvious here. Though there are homeless ones in the US, everyone is assured water and power. The apathy is starkling here.'

> lnr@thehindu.co.in

Published on January 08, 2012

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