Tajikistan: A Memoir

The Indian Youth Delegation is a program organised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports wherein students from different prominent institutes of the country (like IITs, NITs, IIMs, etc.) are chosen to represent India in youth exchange programs with other countries.

Such programs are run in order to promote cultural exchange between the youth of the participating countries. Students from IIT Madras are intimated through smail to apply for the same. Applications were released during the first week of March. We had to fill a simple application and submit it along with a letter of recommendation.

The institute chose 6 students among all applicants to represent IIT Madras. As a senior had participated in the same the earlier year and intimated me of the same, I was also keen on participating. I was fortunate enough to have been one of the six shortlisted students from IIT Madras.

Initially, I was selected to go to China as a Delegate in July but missed the opportunity due to a typo in my email ID. I informed the concerned authorities about this error and they assured to include me in a future delegation. About two months later, in September, I received a communication that I would be going to Tajikistan from 20th of September to 27th of September 2019. I was excited about hearing this news and started looking forward to the visit. Tajikistan is a small central Asian country located above India. It is famous for its fruits, gemstones and natural beauty.

I was asked to report at Bharat Scouts and Guides Headquarters, Delhi on the 19th of September to attend a pre-departure orientation session. That’s where I got to meet the other delegates.

In total, the Tajik delegation comprised of 8 students from different parts of India and 2 delegation leaders from the Ministry.

During the session, we were apprised of the dos & don’ts and other important information. The ministry took care of the Visa application formalities and we all received Visa without any hiccups. We spent that day at Delhi and left the next day morning for Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan. As there was no direct flight between the two cities, we flew via Istanbul for onward and via Dubai for the return.

We landed at Dushanbe early morning on the 21st of September. A grand reception was organised by the Tajik officials to welcome us, with offerings of honey and bread. Such a gesture was part of Tajik culture and was extended to us wherever we went. As we quite a few of us were vegetarians, they had made special arrangements to provide us with Vegetarian food throughout the trip. Meals mostly comprised of fruits, drinks and local dishes prepared differently for us.

The Indian delegation in front of the Ismoili Somoni monument

To start with, we had a wreath-laying ceremony at their national monument, the statue of Ismoili Somoni – founder of the Samanid empire. We were greeted by hundreds of Tajik students waving their national flags. Soon after that grand function, we headed to the National Olympic Committee Museum and had the pleasure of meeting the Vice-Chairman of the Tajikistan Youth Affairs and Sports department. Later that day we visited their central markets.

A striking feature of the capital city was the fact that it still had a strong Soviet-era “brutalist” style of architecture. Grand structures were a common sight, usually in dull colours.

Tajikistan National Library (present behind the Ismoili Somoni monument)

The next day, I presented a talk about India to a big audience of Tajik students. It was well received and appreciated. The students even stood in a queue and took pictures with me. Following that, we were shown around the halls were the SCO had once been held in Dushanbe. It was truly a breath-taking experience.

One of the majestic halls inside Khokhi Navruz

During the following days, we visited many of the tourist attractions, in and around Dushanbe city – the major attractions being Hissar Fort, Tajikistan National Museum and Nurek Hydro Power Project, where I saw turquoise waters for the first time in my
life. We also visited Iskanderkul (Lake of Alexander), one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places on Earth. We did some shopping too buying some memorabilia, gemstones, dry fruits and honey using the local currency Tajik Somoni. One of the evenings, we were invited by the Ambassador of the Indian Embassy in Dushanbe for a cultural program followed by a grand dinner.

The size of a melon at a local market

Prior to the trip, Tajikistan was just another central Asian country that I had only seen in maps. But after the trip, my views changed totally. Tajikistan and India had so much in common, in terms of culture, food and language. Tajikistan is so clean, beautiful and safe. Women are empowered and there is no discrimination at all. The crime rate is quite low.

The Tajik people and their officials were so loving and hospitable and made us feel at home. Overall it was a great once in a life-time experience for me and am truly blessed to have visited Tajikistan, that too in the capacity of a delegate representing India.

My fellow delegates were a treat to be with and I enjoyed their company throughout. Soon after our delegation, they reintroduced a direct flight between Dushanbe and Delhi, one that had been cancelled for a couple of years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt of India for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity. And I would also like to thank the Dean, Academic for nominating me for this delegation.

Turquoise waters at Iskanderkul

For the full detailed report, click here.
For any further information or help in applying for future delegations, feel free to contact me. I highly encourage all my fellow college mates to apply for this program. It is completely funded and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

About the author:

Guhan Narayanan is currently a 3rd year BTech student in the Mechanical engineering department. In his free time, he likes to read, quiz, play games, and sometimes perform in plays.

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