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Why India?

Old Jul 16th, 2003, 08:24 AM
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Why India?

I am researching India and trying to overcome my husband's resistance to picking it as our next travel destination. I'm afraid he's focusing on the negatives (poverty, dysentery, beggars, etc.) and am trying to build a case on the positives. Need your help here: what do you love about India?
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Old Jul 16th, 2003, 10:44 AM
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I am very curious to see all the responses you will get to this question. India is a country of extremes and it has an extreme effect on most people: either you love it or you hate it. I fall into the former category. I have been to India a half dozen times as a tourist and about twice that on business. I am a huge fan of the country.

Yes there is dirt and poverty. But there is also fascinating history, a rich and varied culture like nothing else on earth and wonderful people. If nothing else, India teaches you that there is a LOT of dirt and poverty in the world and the tiny percentage of us in the US, Western Europe and Japan live a life that 95% of the planet cannot even imagine. If you don't like poverty don?t; go to South America, Africa or large parts of Asia. (The Chinese are much better at hiding their poverty, I am very curious to se how many poor people they displace for the Olympics. . . )

India gets a lot of bad press, which leaves a bad impression in people's minds. The media perception is not reality. I lived in Asia for 10 years and have lived in Europe for the last two years, and I cannot tell you how many non-Americans have said to me "oh I couldn?t travel in the US, there is too much crime. Everyone has a gun." While there is crime in the US, their perception is, in my view, very wrong. The media plays up what it wants. Same with India.

In terms of how to persuade your husband, ask him the following questions:

Does he like history? India has a long history both as a world power, a colony and now an independent nation. The country is literally littered with ancient forts, palaces, monuments and temples. New Delhi was planned and built by the English on a grand scale. British and Russians (with help from others, incl Americans), schemed and plotted for control of the Northern Frontier (Punjab, and what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan.) Each region of India has its own unique history. You can stay in a hotel that was once the former palace of a Maharaja, or ride across deserts that the Moguls crossed when the arrived in India thousands of years ago.

Does he like experiencing different cultures and religions? Then I can't think of a better place. Hindu, Moslem, Sikh, Parsee, Jan, Jew, Buddhists, Christian and a thousand others sects you have never heard of are there; all with subtle differences between north and south, east and west. From Hindus at the burning ghats of Bernares, to the towers of silence of the Parsees in Mumbai, to the box wallahs of Calcutta, the richness of the culture and people is amazing.

Does he like good (spicy) food at dirt cheap prices? Don?t get me started: Goan curry, vegetarian thali, tandoori, banana leaf curry, kashmiri, the list is endless. Not to mention all the breads and yoghurts. . .

Does he like politics and political history? India is the largest democracy in the world. It has a vigorous free press, much of it in English. It has political parties of all persuasions, all shouting for attention.

Does he like wildlife? India has some of the best parks for this, esp. for tiger viewing. You can also see crocodiles, deer, and a huge variety of bird life. Places like Ranthambore are world famous. Clinton went there on his trip to India.

Does he like people-watching? The best in the world, IMO. Spend a few hours in an Indian railway station and the entire panoply of people, races, religions and incomes will go by. Fascinating.

Does he like hiking in mountains and hills and seeing untamed nature? Head north to the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world. Visit the cool tea plantation areas of Shimla,
Darjeeling and Ooty (south of Bangalore)

Does he want to see deserts dotted with ancient forts and palaces? Rajasthan and the Punjab, not to mention Agra (the Taj Mahal).

Does he like just lying on a beach? Goa and Kerala have beautiful beaches, stretches of which are empty. You can play golf or tennis. You can live on a houseboat in Kerala and tour around the rivers and waterways. On the east coast, there are good beach south of Chennai all the way down to Pondicherry.

Now a question for you: Have you travelled other places in Asia? If you have not, you might want to get you feet wet, so to speak, in a place like China, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia. This will get you used to the pace of life and way things are done in Asia, which is admittedly, different. Those are your college education. I think India is more like grad school; you need a little bit of experience in your subject.

To me, the fact that India manages to survive at all is the miracle. It is almost a billion people (will have more people than China within the next decade.) There are like 80 religions and languages. It is huge geographically. Yet it is a stable democracy that is able to feed itself (a real advancement since the 19060s) and with a middle class of 350 million, more than the population of the US. Amazing.

Will the poverty bother you? Yes. Will things break down, will planes or trains be late with no explanation? Yes. Will there be times when you wish you were home? Yes. Should you go anyway? Absolutely.

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Old Jul 17th, 2003, 08:50 AM
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Let me recommend that your husband read FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT, a short history of the 1947 partition and end of the British Raj. The book gives an interesting thumbnail sketch of India's past and the important personages of the time- Gandhi, Mountbatten, Nehru, Patel and Jinna of Pakistan. Americans are taught next to nothing about India in our schools. FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT has encouraged me to learn more about the Indian subcontinent and it might lead your husband to become intrigued with investigating India. As an aside, India is one of the few ex-Colonies of the British Empire that has done better independent than as a part of the Empire.
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Old Jul 17th, 2003, 09:26 AM
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I could not have put it better than Cicerone has. if you are seeking a tropical beach vacation I would have to say there are plenty better. However, if being worldly wise is important then a visit to India is an education in the fullest sense.
On my first visit, many decades ago, for one reason or another I chose to walk from a restaurant back to my hotel late night in Bombay(now Mumbai). I think it fair to say that much of my opinion/judement on life is based on what I saw on that 2 hour walk.
There is an amazing amount to see but you also learn a great deal.
If some of those in 'power' could perhaps do the same, we might have a more sane world. Try some time in South India, great!
I would go!
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 04:18 AM
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India is a country of extremes. The greatest shock for first time visitors is always inevatibly scenes related to human miseries. Yes there are lots of such scenes in many parts of the world, but India is somehow different in a way that there seem to be no hopes for a better future. And there seem to be no strong desire to fight for a better life among those at the lower layers of the social structure.

Personally, I don't believe one should visit a place just for the sake of satisfying curiosities. For many visitors, they left India with feelings of profound sadness instead of being fascinated.

On the last day of our visit, at the airport when my group was bidding farewell to one another, one lady saidquot;I'll come back in 10 years to see the country again. Do you think there would be any changes?"

Silent. No one knows. No one dared to guess.

Population explosion is no samll part of the problems the country is facing. No solution and the direction again seems to be pointing to the wrong way.

All come to just one question, and you don't have to ask your husband to get the answer, bacause you can reach your conclusion whether he would enjoy the trip just based on your knowing of him.

The question is: is he the type of person who is extremely sensitive to human sufferings and very deeply troubled by them? Does such sensitivities make him very uncomfortable and may even be depressed?

If the answer is a definite yes, then don't go. Two Canadians in my group left the country in the middle of the trip because they couldn't bear it anymore.

I wouldn't want to use the word "hate" to describe those who left India with unfavorable impressions. It is just different reactions from different individuals to the same issues. There shouldn't be any lables as for right or wrong attached to such reactions.

We are all different, after all.


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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 04:59 AM
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Sorry I guess I didn't exactly answer what you asked. You asked us to build a case to convince your husband of going.

Well, the most colorful part of Indian culture is the Hinduism(sp?) belief and everything goes with that belief. Intrestingly, no one I met could explain the religion in simple words but the practice is quite a scene.

As for history, I am somehow buffled by the lack of the real "old" stuff as we would see in China, Egypt, Greece, etc. Other than that, it is very interesting.

Be sure to understand some basics about Hinduism before you go. That will help a lot while you are travelling there because it pretty much dominates Indian life and their way of thinking.
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 08:41 AM
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Having just returned from a trip to India in June (mostly for work with a few days for myself), I completely agree with Cicernone. India is a very complex country with some many different peoples, religions, food, etc. But I was completely blown away with my experience there. I travel to many developing countries for work and have seen much poverty, but the extremes in India are like nothing I've ever witnessed. There are pockets of extreme poverty, such as the Delhi slums (where my organization funds projects) and also pockets of extreme wealth and grandeur. I returned to the US with a new found sense of appreciation for all the things that we Westerners take for granted. Even with all the great history and architecture, what I treasure most about India is it's ability to change how I see the world and my own life. Perhaps that sounds too corny or lofty, but I think it's an extremely valuable experience. If your husband wants to have a life-changing experience, then I say go for it--you'll never forget India.
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 08:47 AM
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What is the status of the old maharajas?
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 10:37 AM
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At the time of India's independence from the UK in 1947, the "Princely States" as they were known, were offered the option to join the Indian Union or go on their own as independent states. Those with Moslem rules or Moslem majorities also had the possibility to join the newly-formed nation of Pakistan. After considerable pressure from the British and the Congress Party in India, all the Princely States opted to join the Indian Union. (The problems in Kashmir stem from this time, as the Moslem ruler decided to join India as the majority of his people were Hindu. Pakistan has been trying to get them to "defect" ever since.) They were paid privy purses each year, depending on the size of their state. Their titles were strictly honorary from them on, but locally they were (and still are) revered. Indira Ghandi revoked the privy purses in 1975 or so, and the princes had to find their own sources of income. Many were already wealthy, many went into business, many opened one or more of their palaces of hotels.

The Maharajahs still go on today, some like the Maharajah of Udaipur, do conservation work, others are known for their philanthropy.

FYI, technically a Maharajah is a Hindu prince, a Moslem prince is a Napa or a Nizam. There are a myriad of variations from there. There are several good books on this subject, two of my favourites are:

Gayatri Devi, A Princess Remembers. This is the autobiography of the third and favorite wife of the late Maharajah of Jaipur. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. When Jackie Kennedy went to India in 1961 or so, she stayed with the Princess and in the pictures, Jackie looks dowdy compared to her. She was from a royal family in east India. She led a very interesting life, met all kinds of leaders. It is really fun to read her book while in Jaipur, esp if you stay at the Rambagh Palace, which was her home. It is kind of startling to look up for your reading and imagine what the palace look like, where the women's quarter was, etc This book may not be available outside of India, but you can definitely but it in India, esp in Jaipur.

Anne Morrow, Maharajahs of India. This is from 1986 and may be out of print, again you may find it in Indian book shops. It gives fascinating details about the lives of the fabulously wealthy maharajas of India, who lost their power in and most of their wealth in 1974.


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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 10:39 AM
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Sorry, a Moslem prince is a Nawab or a Nizam. "Nawab" is not a word by spell-checker recognizes. . .
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 12:46 PM
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Cicerone, the hindu ruler of kashmir wanted to join india despite the muslim majority (you got it mixed up!)
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 12:54 PM
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Cicerone, thank you for you information, all of which contributes to a spiking of my curiosity for India. FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT discusses the maharajas and nizams at length, including a few brief words on Indira Gandhi stripping them of political powers in the mid-seventies. The only thing that FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT contidicts from your data is that the authors claim that Jammu and Kashmir had a Muslim majority but that Harry Singh, the maharaja, wisely, in my humble opinion, preferred to be part of India. Regarding the India-Pakistan issue of 1947-48, I wonder what might have happened had Gandhi (who was stridently against partition) not been assassinated just before his walk to Karachi. Furthermore, it might be interesting to muse over how the India issue might have been carried out if Churchill and the Conservatives had won the elections of 1945. Churchill was steadfast in his belief in Empire and that India should be ruled by Britain yet Churchill would have had to balance that with the fact that Britain was essentially financially bankrupt by 1945, not to say that the nation was physically exhausted due to its struggles against Nazi Germany.
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 01:10 PM
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Sorry, I did get in confused. I am actually currently re-reading Ann Morrow's book and have too many religions running through my head. . . I also love Freedom at Midnight. I like to muse on where India would be if the British East India Company had never gone there, or if the "Mutiny" had never happend. (By the way, how can it be considered a "mutiny" when a native people revolt against their occupiers? If the French had revolted against the Germans, would we have called THAT the Mutiny of 1940? I think in America, we called in the War of Independence. . .)
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Old Jul 18th, 2003, 01:11 PM
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Sorry, I did get in confused. I am actually currently re-reading Ann Morrow's book and have too many religions running through my head. . . I also love Freedom at Midnight. I like to muse on where India would be if the British East India Company had never gone there, or if the "Mutiny" had never happend. (By the way, how can it be considered a "mutiny" when a native people revolt against their occupiers? If the French had revolted against the Germans, would we have called THAT the Mutiny of 1940? I think in America, we called it the War of Independence. . .of course when the Iragis revolt against us, will be calling it a mutiny as well!)
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Old Jul 19th, 2003, 07:56 AM
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What a terrific summary Cicerone.
Reading this makes me want to head back to India now. No matter what you do in India, you will walk away having learnt something new. India is so colourful, spectacles you do not get to witness at home. The sounds, smells, tastes, and colours leaves you in a daze.From a guest house i stayed in on the bank of the Ganges in Varanasi, every evening I heard the sounds of the local fishermen and boatmen, who would return after a long day which would begin before sunrise.Most of these men would congregate and erupt into laughter, singing songs and chants, before sleeping in their boats(homes) and then awakening to a new day where they would head out on the river again to earn a living. Here your senses seem to be amplified, and you can`t help but walk away feeling stimulated. It`s well worth visiting. As Cicerone mentioned, you either love it or hate it. Open your mind and heart to the challenge of being in such a different environment. Even if you don`t enjoy it, the experience alone is worth it, but I guess I cannot speak for those who disliked India.
If the hussle and bussle mayhem of Delhi or Bombay, are too much to bear, get on a bus and head North to Manali, find the hot spring baths to soothe aches and pains (Vashist) or visit McLoud Ganj, or take in the the views and great masala chai from the Shiva Cafe in Bagshu.It is a great escape, where the air is cleaner, with some easy hiking trails, spectacular veiws, peace and quiet.
This interest you have in researching India will always be fire in your belly. Time to put the fire out! Enjoy.

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Old Jul 27th, 2003, 01:02 PM
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I am also interested very much in India. Can some of you seasoned India travellers give me some idea as to shopping, bazaars, having a sari made and interesting city experiences while living "Indian" life?
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 01:24 AM
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got cut off, sorry.. Scaredtodeath.
The Parharganj in Delhi is where I found many things to buy. I found the prices were a little cheaper then in other towns. For instance, if you go to places like Agra, you may find the prices a little extravagent. Woolen and pashmina shawls, silk, saris, jewellery,stones/gems, music. (tapes/C.D.s),instruments are some things I purchased in Delhi. Varanasi had cheap fabrics and you could always find a tailor to make up an item of clothing. Best thing is to get a few quotes from a couple of tailors before settling with one. If you plan on doing lots of shopping, keep your own travelling luggage light, as you will see so many things you will want to take back home.If you are travelling around from place to place, it can be a pain carrying so much luggage, and having to keep an eye on it all.Aswell as porters at every train station all diving at you to carry a piece, for a fee. You will find that some hotels/ hostels will hold your luggage for a small fee, which makes travelling all the more easier. You hear stories from guest house owners of travellers leaving their lugguge with them, and returning up to 8 years later to pick them up. I found myself sending things back home via sea mail, which usually took up to 3 months but was cheap. If you decide to send items back home, keep the fragile items on you, as some items I had sent, arrived in pieces.I could imagine the Indian post workers tossing parcels to each other to load their ships and dropping mine in the process.
It may take a while before you work out what you should pay for things. You will meet many travellers who are in the same boat as you. It may be an idea to spend a day with one who is aware of prices. While I was there, I often joked with a Japanese travelling companian I met over there. We would shop, and he would always be charged an extreme rate compared to myself. He would begin his haggling with shop merchants by demanding he be given a "good price" not the "Japanese price" which was a ridiculous amount. Often shop merchants will invite you into their shops for chai, and are intent on showing you all their goods for sale with promises of a good price. If you genuinely like something , give them an offer, but dont feel you have to buy something just cause they offered you tea. This can be difficult, for many first time india travellers who are not used to the salesman tactics. This is where some basic hindi words may come in handy. If you hang around the guesthouses and talk to other travellers you will find yourself picking up some words which you can use. I hope this info helps.
Koi behut nahin. (No problem)
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