Monica Stonebridge with Indian girl guides.
Monica Stonebridge with Indian girl guides.

Maclean girl guide tours India

TEN days in India helping to celebrate the centenary of the Girl Guide Movement has been an eye-opener for Maclean’s Monica Stonebridge.

Monica, 17, stayed at Pune, near Mumbai, at the Sangam World Centre from February 19 to February 28. Sangam is one of four study centres around the world that cater for girl guides and girl scouts.

The former Maclean High School student experienced some culture shock when she arrived in India.

“It’s extremely busy. There were people, animals and cars everywhere you looked,” she said.

“The noise continued even at night. While you were in bed you could hear the temple bells and people chanting, animals and truck horns.

“I thought the smell might be more confronting, but it was not too bad.”

She found the Indian love of cricket was everywhere.

“Whenever people talked to us they asked us where we came from,” Monica said.

“When they found out we were from Australian, all they wanted to talk about was cricket and Ricky Ponting.

“The Indian people are very kind and didn’t say anything negative.”

The controversy about violence to Indian students in Australia was not a major worry for most Indian people, although Monica did field some questions about it.

“It was always parents who had children at uni in Australia who were interested,” she said.

Monica was one of three Australians in her group at Sangam taking part in the centenary celebrations that will continue until 2012. Also in her group of 38 were guides and girl scouts from the UK and Canada.

One of the highlights was World Thinking Day, where the visitors joined 400 other Bharat scouts and guides.

“This was a very special day for all participants, as we were given the opportunity to interact with a group of 20 guides or scouts for one hour,” Monica said.

“This time enabled us to teach them games and crafts that we knew, and in return they were able to teach us games and songs that were familiar to them.”

Monica and her friends also enjoyed shopping for saris, Punjabi suits, bangles and bindis and attending Maharastra dinner – an Indian wedding feast – where they tried their hands at Bollywood dancing

The previous day they joined the Holi Day (festival of colours) Festival.

“We all had lots of fun throwing coloured paint and water at each other,” Monica said.

Monica is a lone star girl guide at Maclean – meaning there are not enough people her age to form a girl guide troop.

But she is not going to let that deter her from continuing girl guiding throughout her life.



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