India is not for everyone. Based on what we experienced in Rajasthan it is noisy, dirty, crowded and chaotic. The infrastructure is deplorable, and I marvel at the ability of people to survive on roads where everyone is competing for space. It’s not enough that that applies to every kind of wheeled vehicle but add cows, elephants, camels and goats to the mix and it gets more than a little frightening.
That being said, there is another way of looking at it. India is a way of life, one that I suspect is quite different from that of many visitors. To enjoy what it has to offer one should go with heart and mind open to the experience. One guide said it best when he advised not to just focus on the sights but to see the life.
The life has much to do with Hindu tradition. Marriages are arranged, and couples share their life with the husband’s family. While husbands have considerable freedom, wives typically stay close to home and are not to go out at night for fear of being labeled with uncomplimentary terms.
For the most part, women are illiterate and according to one guide, cell phones have provided them a way to communicate with their friends and family. They may not be able to read or write but they have learned to identify numbers. Hopefully, the fact that young girls are now attending school will change that in time. Again quoting a guide, women who are educated and working outside the home are often castigated by family and friends for having broken with tradition. All this leads me to believe it would be difficult being a woman in India.
Cremation is the norm except for children and unmarried young women whose remains may be buried or with girls between 12 and 18 set adrift on the Ganges.
Business is conducted on the street or in nondescript store fronts. There is little evidence of malls or department stores yet there appears to be no lack of available goods and services.
There are many historically interesting sites to visit all of which add to understanding the culture.
If you are a textile loving person, India is heaven. The beauty of the work is breathtaking though I can’t say much about the working conditions or the equipment. When it came to weaving, I was blown away. Compared to my sophisticated setup the looms are primitive yet I can’t imagine creating the intricate designs that were common. Interestingly, much of the textiles are created by men though women working at home do most of what is hand stitched.
Let me conclude this rambling by saying that if you go to India, treat yourself to great hotels. Some are palaces formerly occupied by maharajahs with decor that is over the top. In addition, the staff is attentive, courteous and kind in a gentle way that is not always a characteristic of westerners.
Despite all its differences, I totally enjoyed the experience of India and am glad to have gone now when it still retains much of its old culture. I suspect in years to come that will change and India will be a different place. If you are one who enjoys immersing yourself in place and taking away what it offers, then India is a place to consider.