India has always been on my list; but somehow it always evaded us; but, last year was different. As part of a ‘round the world holiday, India was one of the ten countries we visited during a two month period in early 2013. It was finally happening.
I emailed my friend Kate who lives with her family in Dehli. She told me the following information and now having been, in our experience, her words were spot on: try the food, don’t drink the water, take Acidophilus tablets ahead of time and know that you’ll both love and despise this place.
On all counts, she was right. Mathew and I spent two weeks in Northern India mostly on a gAdventures trip through Dehli, Agra, Bharatpur and Jaipur. Between Kate’s information, guide books, websites and Dame Judi Dench’s blog posts in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel we had a sense of what to expect-but to see it is to experience it.
What we found was that India has a type of mystical lure. Snake charmers, hawkers, markets, sounds, sights and aromas of every kind will assault your senses from all directions. People are pleasant, service is considerate and being a vegetarian is easy. Juxtapose this splendor and incredible history with rampant poverty and unemployment, ubiquitous rubbish, roaming cattle, caste system stigmas and arranged marriages and trouble is palpable. India is a contradiction at every turn.
Women of today are often in traditional dress and can mainly be seen in the home, fields and some in separate train carriages. Amidst this tradition there are prominent stories of leaders with 350 concubines in transparent dress (some used as chess pieces at the Rajas wish) and today’s Bollywood dancers in extravagantly adorned outfits while the men of the movies are in unkempt western dress. Mobile phones are ever present while cows use the streets to eat, sleep and defecate. The world’s textile and IT outsourcing hubs are here while unemployment abounds, people sleep in the streets, population is growing at an epic rate and some street kids greet passersby with ‘hello, do you have rupees’?
It seems India is an old world trying to become anew without losing its traditions that are at its heart. Change is happening, but as always, it’s not easy. In a land where camels and rickshaws share the streets with tourist buses and motorbikes-magic exists and traveler’s perspectives flourish. This country is filled with heart, promise, potential, a history steeped in religious tradition, corruption and that immensely visible divide between the rich and the poor. Vibrant colours, exquisite spices, beautiful ceremonies, aromatic fragrances, exotic tapestries, poverty, elegance, rubbish, tradition and people-a contradiction in terms and a beauty all its own…This is India.
Share our travels with us in the next few posts on India: what we saw, learned, ate and a few tips for your own adventure. We always knew we wanted to go to India; now we can highly recommend it to others with first-hand experience. Join us.