Auckland Grammar School 6th former Michael talks about the India Immersion Programme 2019-2020 and the Jungle Crows
by Michael Hiddleston
The Auckland Grammar School India Immersion Programme is a structured and interactive experience, which provides students with an opportunity to develop personal leadership skills in a foreign culture through interacting with those at the margins of society. This year marks the 10th anniversary since the Programme was introduced at Grammar, and it is almost identical to the previous programmes, lasting a month and taking 21 students across India. Over the years we’ve been fortunate to grow our relationship with the Jungle Crows in Kolkata – a group who has been there from the start. Below is a refection on our time with the Crows in December 2019.
When we arrived off the plane into Kolkata we were a group of twenty one excited and naive students. India was almost entirely different to anything any of us had ever experienced and it was sure to bring many new challenges. Thankfully from the moment we left the airport the Jungle Crows were there and ready to guide us – making a very foreign environment that much easier to navigate.
What we quickly found between the two groups was a shared love of rugby. Our first real interaction with the Crows occurred at the touch rugby tournament in the Maidan where we got stuck in with some warm up drills, playing, and even reffing at times. It was pretty incredible to see the positive impact rugby has in the community. Not only bringing large groups of kids together but also providing them with the opportunities and support to find success in their passions. One of the highlights of the day was the fifty-strong exhibition game held towards the end of the day. Despite our loss, few memories can compete with the sight of a twenty-five man backline charging down a dusty field in the late afternoon Kolkata sun.
After getting to know some of the Crows on the first day we split into smaller groups on day two for a personalised tour of the city. Again, this was an incredibly special opportunity and we experienced a variety of different things ranging from flower markets to zoos, however perhaps the most special of these was those boys who visited the homes of some of the Jungle Crows. What made these tours so special for us was how it gave us a chance to see the city through the eyes of locals. We saw and experienced things we otherwise never would have, and it made our time in Kolkata that much more special. Our time with the Crows culminated in a Kolkata quiz at the local Rangers Club. It was a fantastic way to round off and say thank you to guys we’d gotten to know so well over such a brief period of time.
We were delighted to have a first for any tour and be invited to a wedding and that to off Nanda to Antara. Nanda was one of the first Crows to visit Auckland Grammar as part of the exchange we have, and we were very happy to be able to join in with his celebrations.
It was tough to leave Kolkata – a city that has imprinted its own unique joy on our hearts just like the groups that have visited before us.
Vicky and Sukumar then accompanied us for the next three days through Darjeeling and Sariswatipur helping us navigate trains, mountain drives and swims in freezing cold water. They really were the most incredible tour guides and made our travel that much easier. This sums up our experience with Kolkata and in particular the Jungle Crows – absolutely incredible hosts who despite their own busy schedules took time to show us around and look after us like brothers. They helped make our trip something unique and special, and for that and all the incredible work they do we cannot thank them enough.
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