It’s a cold Sunday afternoon and the whole country has just regained its patriotic fervour from the Republic day telecast and a gamut of movies being aired on television.
DUB correspondent Navneet Vasistha sits with five French students on an exchange programme at the Department of Financial Studies, South Campus and chats about their adventures and their culture.
NAV: What made you come to India in the first place?
Nebille: We come from the Business School in Pau (South France) and are here to specialise for a semester in Finance. Out of the list of 30 odd universities we got to choose, the Department of Financial Studies at DU was the best and so we’re here.
“We can marry the girl of our choice even if our parents don’t agree. Like we heard that in India if a girl makes love to a guy and doesn’t marry him, nobody marries her. It’s not so back home.”
NAV: What’s the difference between Indian and French universities with respect to students, classes and teachers?
Nebille: Universities back home are bigger with larger campuses. There a more students doing different things. Also there’s more freedom in class, we can get up and leave if we don’t like it (the lecture). Attendance isn’t as important.
Sebastian: In France, teacher-students relations are more cordial. We can directly talk to teachers about anything; I think that is not as much here. But then teachers in France are made to take classes compulsorily, so not all of them put enough effort as Indian teachers do.
NAV: When you think about India, what are the few things that come to mind?
Together: Long trip, afraid to fall sick, casteism, poor people, no toilet paper (everyone laughs). Bollywood movies are well known all over France, SRK is famous and everyone likes to dance to Punjabi music at pubs and discotheques.
India has a large set of traditions and it’s good. There’s no need for it to change and adapt to the way it is in Europe and elsewhere. Not everybody has to be the same.
NAV: What about Indian students?
Sebastian: Lots of Indian students are doing second degrees. Approximately only 5-10% students in France do a second degree. Students here are keen to help the poor and do something to change things around them.
NAV: So today is India’s Republic day and your president is here as the Chief Guest. There’s a lot of talk about his involvement with Ms. Bruni. What do you make of it?
Mohammed: I think he’s just playing with the media.
Nebille: Since she’s not the First Lady, he should respect Indian traditions and not bring her here.
Sylvan: It’s not a problem in France, but he should be careful with the countries he visits.
NAV: What about cultures, what is different?
Sebastian: Lots, we don’t have as spicy food there. Parents give more freedom; we can marry the girl of our choice even if our parents don’t agree. Like we heard that in India if a girl makes love to a guy and doesn’t marry him, nobody marries her. It’s not so back home.
NAV: From whatever you’ve seen in Delhi, what has been good and bad?
Nebille: Once seven of us came in an auto and the driver was completely drunk. Autos are a problem.
Mohammed: There are a lot of poor children, maybe because of the large population and they keep asking for money.
Sebastian: We gave them food because we felt bad for them but no money; we gave money only to the physically challenged.
NAV: There were reports about the turban row in France, what do you make of it?
Mohammed: It is constitutionally correct for the state doesn’t allow any special advantage to any religion. So it’s alright in one way but it hurts religious sentiments I guess. It’s debatable and it depends on which part of the country you are from.
NAV: Thank you all so much for talking to us.
Sylvan, who has been quiet all this while suddenly beams into a smile and gets up from the chair he was sitting on. What follows is a group photoâ€¦