In the last month of 2016, My daughter and I went to India for the first time in o
ver6 years. We went for an Indian wedding and to say we had the time of our lives would be an understament.
To see India as a native is also an experience that was eye opening. There is no country that is more diverse and has sense of pride than India. This country is a super power and you see this everywhere!
As many of my readers know, my writing is infused with a sense of humor. Over the next few postings, I’ll convey to you my views on what I saw during my vacation in Mumbai, Goa, Pune and back to Mumbai. Many of my opinions will invoke responses (hopefully). Much of what I saw and my thoughts should be just considered my views and treated with the humor and realism, I try to inject into my postings.
When I go to India, I am a foreigner.
- I’m what they refer to as an IBCD (Indian Born confused Desi (slang term for a person of Indian Origin)). This year when I went to India with my beautiful 24 year old daughter, I went with an open mind and went without the normal prejudices I bring to the table when I visit India.
My experience in India was amazing! The changes in the lifestyle of the people that call India home (regardless of whether they live there or are NRI’s like myself), has progressed tremendously.
Some ramblings to start:
- Be prepared to walk – When you get off the plane, the huge rebuilt terminals are just that.. huge and spacious.. your walk from your plane to immigration and customs will be at least 10 to 20 minutes. The vastness of the international airport in India is a sight to behold. The same holds true for the aiport in Goa. What you experience in these terminals is for another posting.
- Your Dollar goes further – If you are coming from United States, you are already at an advantage as you are getting a favorable return on currency. One dollar equals $67 Rupees. This number might make you feel rich, but the fact is that even with this favorable returns on currency exchange, it is quite expensive to get around (be it by taxi or other mode of transportation).
- Currency and De-Monitization: 2016 was the year of demonitization of the 500 and 1000 rupee note.. this made getting money via ATM, via currency exchange an adventure. Empty ATM machines and Limitations on how much you can exchange for currency for me was quite restrictive. At the airport, I could only exchange $40 for local currency!
- Change Anyone? Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand and change. Due to de-monitization and the basics how things run in India.. Don’t expect to get change easily.. So everytime you get change for currency you are using for payments, treasure it. You will need it!
- Rules of the Road: There are none.Forget the concept of normalacy and organized traffic patterns when it comes to automotive traffic and travel. The law of the land is “If u are in a car, Look Forward only, and lane indications are just for sake of having them“. Remember that when you cross the streets.. you need to always look “right-left-right” and if you are an NRI, for the first few days, you are always looking the wrong direction when crossing ANY street!
- Traffic is a mess, but rarely do you see any car that has dents or has been damaged due to an accident. The patience and skills that drivers in India show is amazing.. I have to applaud the patience of every single driver that is in a car, motorcycle, scooter, bus, taxi, rickshaw… and any other vehicle that is on the road!
- Technology in India is at par with what we see in the US. In certain thing we have been left in the dust. Can you get a dual Sim phone in the US for less than $80?
- Travel is divided into multiple categories: Pedestrian, Car, Public Transport, or Taxi (can be rickshaw, or taxi). Yes there is even Uber in most cities in India!
- Travel Light: You can literally go to India with a carry on and get everything you need within 24 hours! With Malls and markets readily available buying d Clothes is not a big deal.. be they Indian or western (for me that’s Jeans, shorts and short sleeves).. So my suggestion is pack light and leave lots of room for souvenirs and clothes that you MUST buy!
- Family is family – For me I met I attended my first real “Big Fat Indian Wedding”. The size of my family is huge and to meet them in one fell swoop is not only overwhelming, it’s touching. Considering I have 17 first cousins and each of them have a few kids, the family in attendance at the wedding was huge!
- Curb your apppetite – With India comes food. You get the best variety of food in the world. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian. If you are looking for beef you are out of luck! Cows are sacred in Hindu religion, so you will not get any beef (or at least I didn’t find any) in Mumbai). Friendly advice… if your stomach is weak, make sure you take enough meds to settle your stomach, otherwise you will be making constant trips to the bathroom.. Most of these will not be pleasant as you will be running there! I was lucky.. I only had only 24 hours of this unpleasantness, but the symptoms were around constantly!
- Security – India is very secure. With all the threats of terrorism, you will see plenty of armed military from the time you land to the time you leave. You will not feel insecure when it comes to this. At times this is overwhelming, but you will see that this is absolutely necessary with the world we live in.
There is so much more that I can write about my trip. I’ll use the next few postings over the next few days to give you my spin on my trip.