India: How Much Of An Expert Can You Really Be?

Face book today reminded me of this post below.  It made me think. I started specialising in India as a destination in 1998. We had a policy; if you hadn’t seen it, you couldn’t sell it. I would travel to India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal 2-3 times a year to ‘learn’ the destination in order to fulfill my role as a travel expert on the region. I then moved to India in 2006 and between then and 2019 I spent at least 2-3 weeks a month on the road. I quickly discovered that the problem with India is, the more you discover that there is to discover, the more that there is to discover. It became an obsession.
The main reason I travel so much and meet so many people is that there a true experts of each region of India and within each niche. Not only that, but they operate with dedication and passion and truly want to help and support their local communities. My job became all about connecting the real experts with the travel agents and tour operators who believe in truly experiential travel and want to offer the best to their clients. Oh, and the fact that I am insanely curious and just can’t get enough.  No matter where you travel and who you meet, you will always end up just that little bit more enriched.
Jack of all trades and master of none.
I am attending the World Sacred Spirit Festival in Nagaur which, over the last couple of days has made me realise that I really do know only very little about quite a lot. I live in India and dash around the country, doing my own (non spiritual and far less talented) impersonation of a whirling dervish in my attempt to get to know it. I do this in order to showcase and share it from a first hand perspective, to the tour operators and travel agents that we, at Indian Experiences, consult for. In doing so, I meet people who truly have a passion and phenomenal knowledge for certain aspects of it, whether a region or a topic.
For example, I am honoured to call Marryam Reshii a dear friend, she is the food critic for the Times of India and Author of The Flavour of Spice. She has dedicated her career to the food of India and still doesn’t proclaim herself to be an expert, so how can anyone take a country as vast and diverse and fascinating and let’s face it, huge as India and be an expert?
I admit that:
I know a little about the food.
I know a little about the heritage.
I know a little about her history.
I know a little about the wildlife, a little less about the birds.
I know a little about her religions.
I know a little about her gods.
I know a little about the weaving and textiles and a little about her art.
I know a little about trekking and white water rafting.
I know a little more about Marwari horses and horse safaris.
I know less about her architecture.
I am constantly learning about her people.
I can profess to knowing a bit more about the states, destinations, sites and best kept secrets.
I guess I am reasonably knowledgeable about quite a few hotels.
What I do know a lot about are the right people to connect you with for all of the above.
Now after the last two days, I can add a little bit of Sufism and it’s music to my limited repertoire.
As with everything in India, this festival was full of surprises, talent and extraordinary variety. The spectacular restoration project, The Nagaur Fort, was the venue, a visit to the Sufi shrine was included to discover why Sufism is the focus of this event in Nagaur and an incredible variety of talented acts were included to showcase its scope and global diversity.
The main take away from this experience was summed up by Bapji, (Maharaja Gaj Singh 11 of Jodhpur to you and me) when he reiterated something another festival attendee said to him;  the festival had “Changed them and everyone who has attended it for the better.”
Bapji’s response to all of us was that he hopes that if nothing else, that the people who have attended the festival have, in addition to ”Enjoying an extraordinary event, discovered that the message of Sufism is one of peace, harmony, love and interaction.”
That we have, and had an incredible time to boot. Amazing.
Philippa Kaye is Founder and CEO of www.indianexperiences.com
and author of Escape to India.

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