India is a multiverse. With over thirty languages and hundreds of dialects it is a continent of small provinces. Cultures differ so does traditions. Different dresses, food and rituals. India houses more than 1/6th population of the entire Universe. For a tourist travelling to India it means that often after one night journey by train there is a different culture.New Delhi, its capital is second most populous city in the world. New Delhi is also the fourth most expensive office space in terms of price. My guess is that it would also be as expensive in housing. Real Estate prices in New Delhi has risen by whopping 40 times in last two decades which is not in tune with inflation. Economically there are masses and there are classes. There are 165,000 cars produced in the world, everyday, this year. In 2011-12, the India had produced 20,366,432 vehicles of which 76% were two wheelers, 15% passenger vehicles, 4% three wheelers and 4% were commercial vehicles. These figures indicate shows the large number of middle class. However 85% are still poor. While nearly 50% are downtrodden. For a tourist it means that he/she can not presume about the standard of living. While many do not have shoes to wear, many Indian travel to Paris for weekend. It also means all kinds of facilities exist in New Delhi and such urban cities. but at a price. If for any reason a tourist need something badly he has to find right place or ask right person.
History untold in Books.
India has been under foreign occupation for more than 800 years. First there were Mughals who settled and assimilated in population but not without their usual atrocities upon the inhabitants like any other foreign rulers barring a few. For last nearly 350 years it was a colony of Great Britain untill 1947. Thereafter for 40 years, though not consecutively, it has been ruled by one family democratically elected by population, half of which is downtrodden, as stated above.
Corruption and infrastructure
Due to foreign rule and oppression for such a long time, people did not rise against the corruption of Democratic Rulers. Though it is a burning issue now. But again majority of voters are illiterate or rather kept illiterate due to poor infrastructure which is in turn fed by corruption. In 1984, it was a publicly announced fact by then Prime Minister that only 15% of amount spent on infrastructure is actually spent. For travellers it means to be prepared for lower standards of morality in some greedy people while having to deal with innocent but illitrate people.
Welcome to India
While travellers come from all over world to India, they come with some misconceptions. First is that it is cheap. No. If you travel cheap you are entertained in different manner. Poor stay. Poor transportation. It is like Air travel there is a Cattle Class and there is Executive Class and the First Class. If a traveller want to experience how majority of people live he/she is welcome at his/her own risk.
The problem is that even the Indians who have migrated to other countries do not appreciate this. The other day an old friend who is now settled in Canada visited and told me there was a long que in the bank. I told him to change the banker. At a small price of large deposit, they home deliver. Or one can use netbanking or phonebanking. He did not know that these things exists.
The other misconception is that it is English-speaking country. It is not. May be the number of people who speak and understand English is large but they are mostly in Urban areas. There are rural pockets where no one would understand English at all.
Most business of India are not professionally managed. So is tourism. A local personal touch changes many things. While the tour managers charge through nose and cheat with their commission on every purchase, they do nothing to reduce the hardship of the travellers. I suspect that their behavior is some time biased due to above colonial rule if not racist. Try to find some local contact in India and discuss the itinerary.
Destinations to visit
Eiffel tower is not Paris. So the Agra is not India. No single place is. First what is the purpose of visit. To know India is a task, I have yet to accomplish. But to know a particular part of India as It is today can not be accomplished by visiting famous places. Tourists are dealt like herds and they are thrown on same path again and again. They are shown now non-existant dances or trickery in the name of culture. What is shown is of bygone era. It may be good but it is past.
There are many kinds of tourist destinations which can be loosely classified as:
4. Hill stations and waterfalls.
7. Waterbodies (Manmade or natural)
Tourists guides are inadequate. Travel Guides of different States tell better but these are also not encyclopedia of all places of interest. An experienced local cab/taxi driver is a far better guide than any travel agent.
Safety and Security
Like culture, safety and security also varies from state to state and town to town. Presently Goa and Gujarat would be at top of list on good law and order and UP may be at bottom slipping there to replace Bihar. For travellers from west, it could be J&K. It would be better to consult local contacts. Use social networking, blogging facebook friends to find out about it.
In Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, sun rises at 4AM while in New Delhi sun is visible around six. Except for northern States most of South India and Eastern States are hot around the year and hot does not mean warm. Pune, Bangalore and Nagpur are three places, I know where temperature neither rise to abnormal hot nor falls to be too cold.
Except Northern States rest of India is hot around the year. Northern States like Punjab, HP and Delhi besides J&K experience temperatures upto 0 degree celsius or even more in hill areas, in winters. In all other places it can be said that there are three weathers. Hot, Very hot and Hot with humidity (rains). Nov. to Feb. are the best months to visit. But those looking for adventure with hot weather may try June which is also difficult in travelling as schools are in summer vacation holidays. Another colonial legacy.
All the best for visiting a country run by Gods. But we do not know where the Gods live and who are they.