India, Perception vs Reality

Facebook, as it does, just threw up a post from two years ago. It was a post which at the time, got a lot of response from my friends and colleagues. It was a post which came about as a result of a casual chat with a fellow passenger on a flight to Abu Dhabi. It was this:

I am now sitting in Manchester Airport; the man next to me asks where I am going and grimaces when I say Delhi. The second sentence out of his mouth is, “My wife won’t go there, there is too much poverty.” I reply in all innocence, “Oh, have you been?” He replies, with a sneer on his face, “No, not me, I don’t want to get Delhi Belly.” And then asks, “What do you do there?”

The general gist of the 5 minute rant which ensued was, “Well, sometimes I go and visit some of the UNESCO World Heritage sights, some weekends I go on a wildlife safari, if I’m lucky I see tigers and leopards and elephants and wild dogs, occasionally I head to the beach but actually I am more of an active person so I prefer to head to the hills and go trekking, sometimes white water rafting, sometimes cycling. Sometimes I just stroll around old cities and discover the extraordinary culture which is impossible to avoid in the streets around me. Occasionally I visit temples and Gurudwaras and witness devotion and age old ceremonies. It’s quite fun to head out into the desert on a jeep safari or ride a Marwari horse, and in between I gorge on some of the most delicious and varied food you can imagine. Regardless though, I meet some of the most extraordinary people on the planet and I am invariably humbled by the hospitality of people who by western standards may be poor, but who are rich in their hearts.”

I think he got the message.

India is so much more than even die hard Indophiles such as myself can appreciate at times. The variety is quite simply overwhelming. As I used to put at the start of the itineraries I sent to clients:

India is one of the most diverse nations in the world and a country so vast many consider it a subcontinent, with a geographical diversity from mountains to coast lines, arid deserts to lush tropical forests. Within these geographical boundaries there is a dizzying array of languages, cultures, religions, ethnic groups and a rich wildlife that combine to produce a country that is beautiful, intriguing, beguiling, fascinating and baffling. To enjoy India is not to understand her but to accept her in all her techni-coloured glory and occasional frustrations.

Just saying…

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