A few India related Travelogues --- (Posted by tourists traveling to India for the first time)

Being a die hard net-surfer and an avid reader of articles, posts, stuff, etc. uploaded by varied people of the world, sometimes we come acr... thumbnail 1 summary
Kaleidoscopic Snapshot of IndiaBeing a die hard net-surfer and an avid reader of articles, posts, stuff, etc. uploaded by varied people of the world, sometimes we come across certain intriguing/ interesting/ challenging articles.

Hereby, reproducing three of them.  All three are from three different tourists traveling to India, who've typed down their experience 'n viewpoints of what they see and feel. Its a first hand insight kind of thing of what an outsider thinks and feels about India and her people.  As you would note for yourself, the narrations  most of the times are demanding & amazed (due to varied reasons).

The real purpose of reproducing these texts is to let realize the fellow Indian readers what all changes we must inculcate in making this beautiful, mystic and enchanting country of ours a more visitor friendly and welcoming. One thing that underscores all of these and similar posts is the menace called begging and cheating/fraud that our foreigner guests face. The blog-team here requests one and all to help such visitors whenever such an incidence come across.


[Disclaimer:- The text is being used for non-commercial and/or personal interests, whatsoever. The original authors of the text were informed about the request to use their texts. In case, someone doesn't want their texts be used in such manner, for whatsoever reasons, may kindly tell us. The text(s) in such subjects shall be immediately removed from this blog. Thanks one & all for their support to the cause.]





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Return from India

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The past month I have been vacationing in India, and it was for the most part a hideous experience. This takes some explaining, so please don’t judge me until you read to the end. I have dwelt and agonized over the lessons of India since returning to Israel just before Yom Kippur.

India is a land of hideous human suffering: children with legs broken by their parents into horribly misshapen appendages so they may better beg tourists for money and food; death and excrement and disease in the streets, passed over idly by cows, monkeys and people busily chewing or farting or obstinately contemplating their fingertips to avoid looking around; a flourishing drug trade in the main streets of the largest cities, where a white tourist is whispered to on almost every street corner: ‘jaras, hashish, you want?’; comfortably air-conditioned train cars pulling behind them cars so overcrowded with sweaty, dirty humanity that some must hang out the windows.


A sense of disgust surrounded me throughout my visit, a sensation that also mystified and worried me. I never felt this way about poverty and dirt.Most of the Indians a tourist encounters are an ugly people in all senses of the term. They beg and connive and steal, and do not leave you alone when you say “no.” They lie always, and if the lie may occasionally correspond to some truth it is by coincidence, not intent – at the New Delhi central train station, tourists are regularly sold fake train tickets at pretend ticket counters, and I was repeatedly told by people standing outside the station (thankfully, I never believed them) that the official government-run ticket counter was either burned down, under construction, or otherwise closed for the day. (I have been assured by more experienced friends that they only lie in this way to me because I’m white. Amongst themselves they are more or less as honest as anyone else. I was not relieved.) They believe your money is rightfully theirs but are unwilling to work for it in the slightest – almost every time I entered a taxi over the course of a month, my bag was unceremoniously grabbed from my hands by the driver or a random passerby and placed in the seat, trunk or ground next to me while the person asked for a “tip” for his “service.”

But my problem with India gets much deeper. “Teeming India” seemed for a month like “hideous and inhuman India.” A sense of disgust surrounded me throughout my visit, a sensation that also mystified and worried me. I never felt this way about poverty and dirt when volunteering at a soup kitchen for the poor during my high school years, or as an IDF infantryman in Palestinian towns and villages, some of which saw sheep shepherded through filth-lined village streets. Worse, by the time of this writing I had already returned to the dirty central Tel Aviv shuk for vegetables, refused beggars and caught sight of a few homeless people in southern Tel Aviv streets – all the while feeling a powerful love for Israel specifically in these unpleasant sights. I couldn’t understand the source of overwhelming disquiet, or the opposite and connected reaction of affection toward Israeli dirt and suffering.

Then on Friday night, I went to Kol Nidrei. As I sat introspectively in the service, reading through prayers and readings in my machzor, my mind wandered in an aimless, disturbed way over the Indian landscapes I had seen. I looked up at those praying beside me, their shirts white, their faces tense, whether in concentration, curiosity or boredom, and suddenly I understood what had bothered me so deeply. It was the radically different sense of the “human” I encountered there.

In India, people are treated as one species among many. Cows, sheep, goats, elephants, monkeys, dogs, cats, even camels, wander the streets, old and young alike, sick and healthy alike. Often one sees a sick dog slinking between the stalls of Delhi’s Main Bazaar, unheeded by either people or cows. Unless there is food involved, monkeys will stare right past you, showing more interest in the tree behind him. Animal species tend to ignore each other’s existence unless it directly affects their health or safety, and so it is with the humans who live alongside languidly chewing cows and bickering dogs. In this context, the cultural curiosity of cows roaming Delhi’s markets and monkeys scampering freely through the streets of northern Shimla are actually a powerful signal that there is a wholly different understanding of humanity at work here.

Suddenly I understood what had bothered me so deeply. It was the radically different sense of the 'human' I encountered there.On the other hand, the Israelis standing around me at shul on Friday night were uniquely removed from the animal world, “human” in the Jewish sense and in their deepest understanding of themselves. The entirety of their religious, political and professional identity – whether they are haredim or anarchists, Tel Aviv University intellectuals or amulet-clad falafel sellers – is composed around the improvement and well-being of their individual selves. The human story, in the Jewish cultural arena, is the only meaningful one, and the only one we let roam the streets. In India, on the other hand, street urchins were treated before my eyes as economic commodities first and children second – cows to be milked or sheep to be sheared. A man breaks his son’s legs to beg for money, while government exists to serve a thin layer of millionaires sitting atop one-eighth of humanity that hungers and struggles for its daily bread.

My goal is not to judge Indian society or religious beliefs, but to explain the source of a deep disturbance India awakened in me. I can see the beauty and wisdom behind a more egalitarian view of the Homo Sapiens’ role in the world. Also, these are the impressions of someone who spent one month in a place whose language he doesn’t speak and whose religion and culture he does not meaningfully understand.

Even so and for what it’s worth, my subjective experience of India was that for the average Indian market-goer and stall-owner, this species equality did not end up humanizing the animals, but rather bestializing the human.

It is worth noting – and honesty demands it – that India also held the opposite extreme of unimaginably spectacular scenery and moments of almost unbearable compassion and kindness. It is a magnificent experience to be traveling through Himalayan valleys that change from lush village-dotted Gardens of Eden to desolate monastery-riddled deserts at a breathtaking 15,000 feet. The Ganges River at Rishikesh was perhaps the most calming and refreshing experience I will ever have, and battling the monkeys for access to Shimla’s Jakkhu Temple one of the most fun. I had a deeply moving experience when, after a steep climb up a hill to the temple of a goddess of power who rides a tiger, or some such divine oddball, I was stopped at the entrance by a priest motioning to me to wait quietly. After a moment, a handsome young couple came out of the inner room of the temple, walking with the stillness of lovers sharing some unbearable inner agony. The moment was muted, poignant and powerful – and was the last time I made fun of Hindu religiosity.

So, like all places that are part of the real world, India is a mixed bag. It is an important place to see, but not necessarily a calming one. Unless you travel high-class, in posh hotels with good service, India is an unforgiving place, one that must be dealt with on its own terms. And it is a lesson for even the most broad-minded among us that globalization, the favored paradigm of the chattering classes, is still a thin veneer on the surface of a varied, quirky humanity.

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Tashi Jong

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I don't know the official spelling (I've seen both), nor the real pronunciation. I've heard Tibetans and Indians saying it "Shimla" and some Indians saying "Simla". Like everything in India, everyone is very adamant that their version is right, but no one is able to agree with each other.

Anyway, here we are in the YMCA in Simla. It's clean, comfortable enough and cheap. But anyway, after posting that last missive, we hung around McLeod for a little bit; a beggar attempted the "I want to be your friend" trick on us. He talked with us all nice and what not, and when we asked what he was up to in McLeod (he was, he said, from Varanasi) he said - in an oh so off-hand manner - "oh, just begging". Well, he didn't get any of our precious money, but he did give us some good (and true) information about the bus to Dharamsala. Which was our next adventure. For Rs7, and half an hour of your valuable time, the bus goes from McLeod Ganj (nice place, full of Tibetans and tourists) to Dharamsala bus station (seedy and scummy, though apparently less of a hole than Delhi train station, I am reliably informed).

On the bus down to the bus station, we spoke with a lovely cheerful Tibetan lady of about 25 called Tsering. She is a baker at the Hotel Tibet, so we promised to come see her before my birthday to get a cake. She told us she was born in Kham, Tibet, which is where the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche had his monastery before fleeing to India in 1965, in 1969, setting up Tashi Jong monastery. Where, if you hadn't already realised, I am teaching now. Tsering gave us her email address and insisted we email her at some point. The Tibetan people genuinely seem to want to just be your friend (in general), without wanting anything from you, which is such a nice change from a lot of the people you meet. Not to say that you don't meet helpful and friendly Indians, which we most certainly have, it's just that this sort of openness seems more intrinsic in the Tibetans. I should also note her English was very good, which helps.

At the bus station in Dharamsala, we went to a fairly seedy place called "Canteen", where we had thali (not knowing what it was) for Rs20. It turned out to be flat bread with various sauces to dip it into (with free refills of sauce and bread). It was fine really, as these things go. We were stared at relentlessly during the whole time we were in the restaurant (and really the bus station in general), us being the only whites - pretty much - in the whole of Dharamsala (unlike McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala is not a touristy area). We met a handful of Tibetan monks at the bus station who helped us find the right bus (the sign said to go to stand 7, which, of course this being India and all, didn't exist). We were, again, stared at by the rest of the bus station. After a little wait there, we boarded the bus - me feeling a tad on the squiffy side, but that died down eventually. The bus itself (semi-deluxe) was a bit crap, no air-con, the door was open at least half the time, frequent stops, etc., etc., but it was made bearable by Patrick Wolf, Final Fantasy and Beirut.

We arrived in Simla some time after 6am but before 7am (I think) and, before we even got off the bus, were assaulted by touts and taxi drivers ("room, sir?", "taxi, sir?", "good price", etc.). We ignored them as best we could, but had to ask for a little bit of help with walking up to the main area of Simla. Somewhere along the line we went East instead of West, and found ourselves in a complex of housing blocks of a slightly (only slightly) dubious nature. We eventually (after some time) rectified our mistake and made our way into Simla proper. It was fairly surreal, none of the shops were open, and the streets were vacant but for a small army of street cleaners sweeping and tidying. The streets of Simla really are very clean - spitting and smoking are banned, though I've seen some people ignoring the former. I should mention Indian spitting habits; they chew something red, then snort up as much mucus as is humanly possible, then spit the whole lot out. Pretty vile.

We found the YMCA alright in the end, checked in and showered and dressed in clean clothes (hurray!). I believe I mentioned earlier that a Nepalese friend of the main nurse at Tashi Jong washed our clothes for us. It cost Rs40 to wash almost all of my clothes, which is stupidly cheap. I then went out to a restaurant the LP (Lonely Planet - how backpacker am I?) recommended for breakfast, called Balijee's. I was tempted by masala dosa (see one of the earlier posts to find out what that is), but I thought I'd go Western again, so I ordered sausages, chips and egg (and a nice cuppa). It was exactly what I needed - fairly greasy and tasty (and cheap)! After that, I came back here to type all this. My impression of Simla is very positive so far (since I've had breakfast and a shower and feel a whole lot better than when I got off the bus). We are going to try and meet up with John who is a Sanjula Monastery (very close) and maybe Bo (one of the Aussie girls) who is a whopping ten hours away in Dhera Dhun (middle of nowhere, not even in Himachal Pradesh!) but who has a week long holiday now as well. So that should all be fun.

I wanted to mention a couple of other random things. Firstly, the touchy-feely nature of Indian men. It is not uncommon at all in India to see men holding hands (including interlocked fingers and just holding pinkies), but we were assured by Rekha when in Delhi that it doesn't make them gay, just friends. They also often walk with hands on each others shoulders too. Coming from England, this is slightly weird to get used to. The other, far more important, thing I wanted to mention is that the hot water revolution seems to have bypassed Himachal Pradesh. At TJ we have cold showers. Here at the YMCA in Simla, we have cold showers. I hear too that those in the NE have cold showers too. So be thankful you lot in England with your excessive luxury!

Anyway, that's all I have to say, but more on the adventures of Simla as and when they happen!

...Un
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Namaste, India

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So - Here we are up in Manali, northern India, getting ready to welcome the Jewish new year.

We arrived in India two weeks ago. Our Indian experience started with another night at Delhi's airport. It is the 3rd time in 6 months that we sleep on those same broken chairs... Really starting to feel like home.
Delhi was just as expected - Dirty, noisy, jammed. Despite what some may say we didn't find it shocking or anything. City poverty is always the worst and Delhi for that matter was very similar to Lhasa or Kathmandu or any other poor Asian city we visited.
Anyway, with the heat and humidity at this time of year it wasn't a whole lot of fun, so we booked our train tickets to the north right away.
Our first stop was Shimla - A vacation spot up in the mountains, very popular among Indian couples.
The 12 hours/2 trains journey over there was incredible. The second train we took is called "toy train" - some kind of a primitive train that climbs up the mountain in less than 20km/h. It took us 6 hours to pass the required 96 km to Shimla, but in was wonderful to just stand by the door and enjoy the view!

Apart from the beautiful scenery, the train ride provided some less pleasant scenes. Apparently train stations in India (or at least the ones we have visited) make a home to many of the poorest who cannot afford anything else. They use the station's facilities such as water and toilets turning the platforms into one big refugee camp.

Shimla was nice - The exact opposite of Delhi - Cool, quiet, clean... it has a beautiful church (one of the oldest in India) and lots of monkeys running around (we actually had to "buy" our sunglasses back with food after violently grabbed by one of them!!!)

We decided not to take the direct bus from Shimla to Parvaty Valley, where we were heading next. Instead we took a longer journey through the mountains, in public buses. We're not in a hurry, and we thought this would give us a chance to see more of India and not just the touristic places.

We spent the first night in Tatapani - A small village famous for its hot springs. We spent two more night in Mandi - An ancient city which used to be an important junction on the road to Tibet, in the old times. Today it is just another Indian city. but there's a lake near by ("Rewalsar") which is holly for both Hindu and Buddhists . We took a day trip over and figured there must be something in those water - There were huge fish over there that practically swam outside the water, eating out of people hands!!!

From Mandi we continued to Kasol - A tiny Israeli bubble in the heart of Parvaty Valley. The valley is famous for its Marijuana which is said to be one of the best in the world. This of course attracts hundreds of Israelis who stay there for weeks. You can find any kind of Israeli dish you have in mind in Kasol - Even "Hamin" and "Jahnun" on Saturdays...

Thanks to Natalie and Dror who tipped us we managed to get away from the crowd in a beautiful guest house right by the river, hidden in the woods. A real "European lodge" kind of thing.


We took the time in Kasol enjoying the rest, the food and some good books. Since this is what most people do there (= nothing), the beautiful trails around remain deserted and we enjoyed some peaceful walks through the green fields and surrounding villages.


Before we go - We wanted to wish you all Shana Tova!!! (next year - jerusalem :-))

...Un
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