From India with Love
From India with Love
Dear First Time Traveller,
Allow me to introduce myself.
I am India, the land of snake charmers, colourful festivals, song and dance.
Regretfully, I am also the land where poverty, illiteracy, hunger and corruption are rampant and unconcealed.
And yet I can be described as the land of opportunities, extravagant nightclubs, luxury hotels and expensive cars.
The question is…which India were you looking to visit? I’m assuming when you booked your ticket, you were only mildly curious to discover, first hand, if elephants still roamed my streets….
You’re possibly a music loving Dj intrigued by the promise of the all-night, open-air beach parties in Goa. Chances are you will then proceed, armed with your backpacks, to span the length and breadth of my diverse states….from the raw, untouched beauty of the hills in Himachal Pradesh to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of me, as seen on the map.
You, dear traveller, could also be a middle-aged man looking to rediscover romance on your silver anniversary with your wife, who stood by you for better or for worse….as she promised.
And I have just the place you need, to make her feel like a princess…Rajasthan….with the centuries old, carved-to-perfection royal palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur.
Take her for an elephant safari, tiger-spotting through the dense forests of Ranthambore.
And have the Rajasthani folk dancers mesmerize her with their folklore that breaks all language barriers through their swirling skirts.
Or… you could be someone suffering from heartbreak or loneliness. Someone, whose outwardly westernised body yearns to reach out to its hidden spiritual soul…and you’ve rightly heard that all the answers to your spirit’s restless questions can be found at the feet of the many gurus who meditate on the banks of my holy river, Ganga.
Whoever you are, whatever is your quest, I’m sorry to inform you that once you reach me…that’s not all you’ll get.
In my land, you cannot choose your own journey. Once you arrive I choose your path. No matter which India you wanted to see, you’re destined to experience more than what you paid for…and much more than what you bargained for.
Along with my old world charm and scenic beauty, be prepared to be assaulted by sights and smells that you will witness in no other country.
Children with no place to stay defecating on my streets, right outside the homes of the rich and the famous.
Sorry to disappoint, but elephants are now a rarity on my city roads but be prepared to meet the crows, cows, flies and mosquitoes that are so hard to miss.
Don’t forget to fasten your seat belt as you do back in your home, but I cannot promise the auto rickshaws, trucks and buses that seem to fly rather than ply on my roads, disregarding every traffic rule you’ve known, won’t give you an anxiety attack.
Which reminds me…don’t eat the food bought on my streets. Even though my people will tempt you.. it's delicious, they’ll promise. Something you’ve never tried before, they’ll guarantee. They’re right…the food on my land is amazing….but your delicate palate can’t handle it…and your immunity isn’t strong enough for you to withstand it. So eat only at certified eateries, don’t eat anything raw and buy your own bottled water.
You’ll be pleased to discover that things here are not necessarily expensive…but do set aside a budget for miscellaneous expenses such as tourist guides, souvenir store owners and taxi drivers who will undoubtedly over-charge you.
And my dear female travellers, I apologise to you from the bottom of my heart, in advance. For the abuse, the stalking, the objectification that you will undoubtedly face…and that is if you’re lucky!! It is often much worse. I don’t know how it’s come to this. Believe me, it was not always so. This regression in my land where I have known my women to be worshipped and respected in the past, pains me.
So, consider yourself warned…because I do like you….and I want you to visit. I like it that you’re interested in my rich culture and diverse traditions.
It makes me proud when you are amazed at our values and rituals. I know I’ve succeeded when you discover yourself in my mountains. When you’re amazed at the Indian families that live together for generations and truly mean it even though they don’t actually say the words ’till death do us part’. When you marvel at the intricate architecture of my temples and palaces.
I especially love the look on your face when you’re first exposed to Bollywood….and all its song and dance.
I can only request you, with folded hands, as is my custom, to remember all of this when you return home. When you tell your friends about your journey….I implore you…do leave out the little details…like the pot-holed roads, the stench, the insufferable heat.
Talk to your friends, instead, about my ancient wisdom and my colours…and urge them to come. That’s how I like it. That’s how I remember it.
Because it’s not my fault that political corruption has deprived me of infrastructure and progress. I’m not to blame if my people don’t value life or their cultural legacy or follow common rules of basic hygeine or etiquette.
With the rich heritage that I have provided them, my people could and should have turned tourism into a lucrative industry.
Alas, blinded by their short-sighted selfish greed, they fail to see the bigger picture.
I wish they had made your journey easier and your stay more comfortable so that you would return. However I know you most likely, will not.
But this I guarantee, for better or for worse, for the good and the bad, you will never forget your visit here.
And that is the promise of India!