By Joey Lim
Vice President (Negeri Sembilan Chapter)
Returnee from JENESYS Japan 2011

With international borders remaining closed, cultural sharing, bonding and learning have to be done virtually. AFS Malaysia collaborated with AFS Mumbai which organised a virtual programme on two Saturdays in September 2020, to give a sampler of Mumbai and India to Malaysian volunteers. This programme also served to connect participants from both countries.

The virtual programme consisted of a variety of activities, sharing sessions and discussions online. It began with an overview of India, including its festivals, languages and dialects, traditional clothing, pastimes, music, dance, food and the one international star that connected everyone – Shah Rukh Khan!

The overview gave participants a broad understanding of the country. AFS Mumbai then had a ‘Sounds of Mumbai’ quiz where participants had to guess the city’s daily activities through audio clips, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the soundscape of Mumbai.

It is normal to have stereotypes about a certain country, and volunteers from AFS Mumbai tested this with a game called Half Truth where participants had to guess the validity of a statement and AFS Mumbai would reveal the truth from the perspective of a local which is an essential factor in the experience of an exchange journey.

The second session of the virtual programme gave a more in-depth view of India. Bollywood was featured and participants were given insights into what goes on behind the scenes, illustrating that the glitter and glamour are not representative of a large part of India but that its stories act as a channel of communication.

Participants were also given the opportunity to understand Mumbai and Mumbaikar (native or inhabitant of Mumbai) a little more through video recordings of people of New Delhi who had moved to Mumbai and offered their perspectives of the city. Food was another topic that generated interest among participants from both countries. AFS Mumbai focused on a street snack called Pani Puri which proved inviting and mouth watering on screen. There were also recorded messages from a Radio Jockey based in Mumbai which surprised and delighted the Malaysian participants. The session then ended with a song created just for this programme, with volunteers from both countries singing together with gusto, ending the virtual tour on a high note.