LEAD Goes to India

Going through Booth’s LEAD program once can bring people together. Going through it twice, builds even deeper relationships. And traveling to the other side of the world together for one of the biggest events of a lifetime ensures lifelong friendships.

As a second year LEAD facilitator, you dedicate two quarters of your Booth experience to creating and learning content, which you then deliver to the incoming Class during Orientation. Between your cohort squad and your work-group squads, you spend an incredible amount of time with the same sets of people.

Becoming a LEAD Facil
The choice to become a LEAD facil (short for “Leadership Effectiveness And Development” facilitator) can be a difficult one. Not only does it take up two courses-worth of credit, but you also give up a month of your summer to make sure everything is ready for LOR (“Leadership Orientation Retreat,” a three-day excursion in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin), the classroom modules, and a few post-LEAD challenges. However, it is definitely worthwhile.

The group of 40 facils becomes a tight-knit group, which transcends our time at Booth—many former facils helped me during my internship last summer, and I have heard from many facil alumni that some of their closest friends today were fellow facils.

These bonds are formed while developing important skills, like consensus building in large non-hierarchical groups, and becoming comfortable performing in embarrassing ways in front of large audiences (we do an uncomfortable amount of dancing). The experience culminates in the delivery of all the content we work hard to create: a weekend retreat in Lake Geneva to get to know your cohort better; six modules of classroom content on topics like public speaking, group dynamics, and how we perceive one another; and some post-LEAD challenges such as a movie-making competition.

Destined for Close-knit Friends
For me, I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet my 120 first year students across my two cohorts, and I am glad to say that I still have strong relationships with many of them half a year later. Between the relationships I formed with my first-year students and the bonds I deepened with the second year LEAD facils I worked closely with, I feel that my connection to the Booth community was greatly benefited by being a LEAD facil.

One of the people I worked very closely with is Ishan Joshi. While we worked together on the Warmth and Competence section of the Perception, Awareness, and Insights (PAI for short) module, we got to know each other quite well. I fondly remember discussing with him his plans to propose to his now wife, and once he proposed the entire PAI group huddled around him the next time we got together to view the pictures.

We’re Going to India
The wedding was set for early February in Mumbai, India. I didn’t hesitate when he invited me; I knew I had to attend. Not only was my friend getting married, but I had never been to India before, and I certainly hadn’t been to an Indian wedding before!

The flights were no joke—I spent 13 hours traveling to Qatar, and then another 4-hour flight to get to Mumbai. I was the first of the seven Boothies who were attending the wedding (five of us were LEAD facils with Ishan, and one of us went through LEAD together as first-years with Ishan) to arrive, so I got a chance to slowly acclimate on my first day. By the next day, five of the remaining seven people had arrived and we were ready to start celebrating.

The Wedding
The first day of the wedding was an event called the sangeet. We enjoyed beautiful speeches by family members, festive dances by friends, and a few songs from a high school friend turned singer. After the organized portion of the evening wrapped up, the older crowd started to disperse and a giant dance party commenced.

Wedding Day 2
Fortunately for us, day two was a day of rest so most of us spent the afternoon touring a fascinating area of Mumbai called Dharavi. It is the third largest slum in the world with over a million people inhabiting a 0.8 square mile area. None of us had ever seen anything like it, and it led to many conversations about what constitutes a good and happy life.

During our tour, I was surprised by how much industry there was with over a billion USD in productivity, and a vibrant community where we saw people sharing chai during a break and children playing together in a newly renovated park.

Wedding Day 3
Day three was the next ceremony: the Catholic wedding. The reception that evening was outside, so all the guys in suits really felt the heat—since it is the cold season, at night it gets down to a cool 75 degrees if you’re lucky. Occasionally we Boothies would specifically be summoned to the dance floor to do dances with the groom, and, since no one can get evidence to the contrary, I am comfortable saying that we crushed it every time.

Wedding Day 4
The fourth day led us to the final ceremony of the wedding—I’ve been informed that three ceremonies is quite light for an Indian wedding. This one was the Hindu ceremony, so everyone wore their best saris and kurtas.

To kick it off, everyone formed a procession in the street and we danced our way down in front of a car carrying the bride and groom. I was shocked at how accommodating traffic was seeing as just a few minutes before I had struggled not to be hit by cars as I crossed the street to get to the starting point of the procession. Our marching band followed us as we went the few blocks to the actual venue. They were deafening at times, but they created a great atmosphere.

Once we got to the venue, Ishan had to earn the right to enter. The dancing continued as friends and family danced with him one last time as a bachelor. As that finished, he had to negotiate with the bride’s mom to enter the venue, which I am told he did masterfully. Finally, he was allowed in. The religious ceremony followed, which was quite beautiful: it involves saying prayers and taking steps together around a sacred fire. One part of the ceremony I found delightful was a custom where the bridesmaids take the groom’s shoes, and he is expected to give a gift in exchange for them.

  

For me, this will be one of my highlights of my time at Booth. The thing that made the entire experience so magical for me was the people. The friends and family of the bride and groom made us feel at home. Five of us who flew around the world for this wedding did LEAD together with Ishan, and, while we were closely bonded from that experience already, this international trip together added a whole new level of depth to those relationships.

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