Michael Delfs

Thane Richard
Brown University
B.A. (Economics and Development Studies)
Mahindra Global Recruit 2009


In stereotypical Brown nature, I took many unrelated and obscure classes (like glass blowing) but ended up majoring in Economics and Development Studies. I wrote a senior thesis on land management systems with respect to organized grazing schemes. I spent my junior year of college off of Brown’s campus, first in Delhi at St. Stephen’s College and then on a sailboat in the Caribbean with the Sea Education Association based in Woods Hole, MA.

 

My work experience is varied but I think working for Mahindra oddly fits right in. After my freshman year I worked for a non-profit called Bike and Build where I helped coordinate and lead a Providence to Seattle bike trip for affordable housing. My sophomore summer was spent in India on the aforementioned abroad program. For my junior summer I found a job as a lawn boy on a ranch in Montana where I learned the ropes of becoming a cowboy and discovered the material for my senior thesis. I also had an on-campus secretarial job and worked as a tutor while enrolled at Brown. Clearly, working for a leading Indian corporate was the next step.

 

India can be hard to describe to anyone who has not been there. My advisor at St. Stephen’s put it in a fitting way when he said that “India is the world’s only functioning anarchy.” My time at Stephens afforded me the fortunate opportunity to travel to various parts of the country while still having an urban and academic home-base in Delhi to come back to. I had friends and classes in Delhi but I also had my independence. India is at a point in its development where it is in the hands of the traveller to sculpt their own experience. One can sit at the bars of the nicest clubs, sleep at world class resorts, and enjoy amazing cuisine or, alternatively, take sleeper trains and cramped buses to dirt cheap hotels. My time here has been a mix of both and between going out at night in Delhi and backpacking in the Himalayas, to give two opposite examples, I have found an India that I have been able to call home.

 

As an anecdote, one weekend during my study abroad I took a trip to Amritsar, the capital of the Sikh religion and home to the golden temple. The trip was a spur of the moment thing, the result of me and my then girlfriend asking for the cheapest ticket regardless of the destination. What we ended up on was an overnight train to an outskirt town whose name we could not pronounce. We asked for directions to a bus station and were directed to an abandoned dirt parking lot. After being shown by numerous passer-by where to stand and wait for our buses on the sides of long, abandoned roads, we would constantly ask ourselves “How do they know?” Despite our reservations over a series of bus transfers at unmarked locations, we found our way to our destination. Contrary to the very marked and well-lit systems we are familiar with in the US, India very often functions without roadmaps. The rural bus system is just one example of this. The Dabawallas in Mumbai, who manage to deliver tens of thousands of lunches across the city everyday without making a mistake, are another. The shift in routines requires flexibility and can be annoying at times, but this is India – you learn to love it.