Friends who never visited India, often ask me what is India like? They almost believe India is a lovely land of sadhus, snake-charmers and elephants. I quickly ran to my PC to write this article for them. This might also come in handy for those who are about to visit this quirky land for the first time.
India is a house of extremes. It displays an extravaganza of population, poverty, wealth, corruption, pollution, dishonesty, love, warmth and high-spirited people. (PLEASE read these words over and over again till each of them explodes inside your brain and you become well-armed for the intensity).
India has the most fascinating sites (historical and archeological) and intriguing sights (man-made and natural), and a bountiful range of physical anomalies thrown in — from the snow-capped Himalayas to barren Thar deserts; from the Deccan plateau to a few of the most exotic sea-beaches in the world, from the most orthodox temples, mosques and households, to the daring nude beaches in Goa.
Did you know that India has a medley of a mammoth over 500 languages, 6400 castes, seven religions, two major types of humans… heterosexuals and homosexuals… all living in a disorganized harmony…? Something I don’t think any country in the world could have housed without diligent and regular cataclysms.
Physical diversity too is tricky! One needs to study the country like a textbook for an exam before venturing out. It has places with the biggest floods, most lavish rainfall, driest droughts and bitterest winters, complete with snowfall… all within one country. I think India has the most abundance and most deprivation almost under the same roof.
Let me tell you something interesting. During the ’80s, when I was in my youth, Indians greatly relied on letters, telephones, telegrams and trunk-calls for communication. Computers existed only in certain IT offices and internet was unheard of. Web was what spiders spun and net was something to catch fish in. Hardware was a tool and software never existed. Keyboard was a musical instrument, and monitor and ram were animals. 🙂 (You can read more about my technological know how in my other post: Technology and I… Not the best of Mates)
However, all hell broke loose suddenly during the ’90s. Within a decade, technology permeated into every household, every institution and industry. So much that now every villager has a cell-phone, every village school has at least one computer and every person has to know computers to get any job. Don’t worry if they can’t feed their children twice a day or send them to schools.
Even in the Himalayas, into the remotest folds of the mountains, where sages live in caves, bathe in freezing rivers, eat fruits plucked from trees and meditate, you would delightfully find at least one internet cafe (albeit with slow connection) and some sages animatedly chatting on cellphones.
There are very few places in India where the radar of technology has not reached. And I am banking on these places to run to when I decide to get lost from the world. 🙂
Russell Peters said something which struck me: “India has no poor. The people who you think are poor have been in that state for generations and will remain in that state for generations. So they never consider themselves poor. It’s like, this part of the pavement is my drawing room; this part is living room; Hey! you’re stepping into my kitchen!” Try to uplift them and they’ll say: “I can’t leave my ancestral home!”
Last time when I left India two years back, I used to call my rickshaw-puller and maid on their cell-phones. I think by now they are reporting sick via email. 😀
An average Indian is extremely educated and knowledgeable and will probably know more about your country’s history, politics and literature than you do. So come prepared only after doing your homework. Indians speak English and know more English than any common man on the streets of English-speaking countries like US, Canada, Australia or UK. An average man knows at least four Latin words, have read Shakespeare and knows about the Renaissance.
This, even when there are millions of children who cannot afford education.
About lifestyle? Even during the ’90s the kind of dress girls wore to parties would make any standard woman in the West blush. I’m yet to see a woman in Canada wear a backless that boldly brushed over the bikini line. Girls smoked openly… on streets, clubs, restaurants and revolted quietly in orthodox households.
Gays and hermaphodites are out of the closet and making waves in the society. Especially in the fashion and glamor industry.
Don’t try to understand relationships in India. They are more complicated than you can imagine… the gray (or should I say rainbow-colored?) areas between being single to being married to being divorced, religiously gets blurry and more and more perplexing. I can write at least 10 novels based on the relationships I saw around me… but no one would believe me! (And moreover I am one lazy author!)
Live-in relations and extra-marital affairs are so common — even in villages — that the Supreme Court permitted long-time live-in partners to be equivalent to being married and children born out of them are not coined illegitimate. (Read it here)
In 2009, homosexuality was legalized in India… among the first few countries to do so. (Here)
But, don’t be so charmed! Be alarmed! Be armed!
India is treacherous to vulnerable newcomers. Those who are about to enter India with an idea that they will land in a fascinating and innocent land of yoga and peace, and may still get to see the “rope trick”, may be ‘roped’ into so many ‘tricks’ that before you bat your eyelids, you will be ripped off of all your material belongings and you would so wish you knew the “rope trick” to catch a flying flight above back home!!! Hahahaha 😀
PS: I haven’t touched anything on the booming economy and scientific and space developments, though. Let’s keep that for your next visit. 😛
AND FOOD!!!!!! That awesome exhibition of tantalizing platter from every single state and region and religion.
(Did you watch ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and wished you could retire in a warm and vibrant place like India instead of being stuck in 6 months of snow and loneliness in US/Canada?
Well, the movie is now for real….
Retiring in India is now beginning to become a well-chalked out future for you. You can live at less than half the cost ($400-850 rental p.m.). You get the warm sun, yet are living by the sea or the hills, so that you don’t feel the summer heat too much. You can chose your room-with-a-view, your choice of platter and get involved in holistic activities like yoga, spirituality and voluntary work for children and the under-priviledged.
You can take part in adventure sports like WHITE WATER RAFTING, MOUNTAIN HIKING or Camping and come back to spend a few spiritual days doing yoga and holistic activities.
You can also float your own ideas for a business venture or get local jobs to keep yourself busy and earn pocket money.
Foremost, you have people around to take care of you: Maids, sweepers, cook, errand boys, masseurs, and Man Fridays at very little cost. They know, if not fluent, broken English, who are warm and welcoming to visitors. You’ll really want to pay them extra for all the willing help that you’ll get which you never got a taste of in the West.
There’s a whole new relaxed future under the bright sunlight awaiting you, if only you want.
I accompany personally for many trips.
Take the first trip for a few months to test the taste of India.
After a overwhelming response on this blog and requests from several friends, I decided to start a spiritual-adventure trip from Toronto to Haridwar where I will personally accompany you and guide you throughout your tour. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be a part of the excitement. )