February 17 – March 20, 2006
Many of my friends have asked, and I’ve asked myself many times during the trip: What am I doing in India? Travel here isn’t easy and relaxing. India is dirty. It’s full of sales people and rickshaw drivers who’re out to rip you off. It’s noisy. It’s hard to find good food other than curries and tandoori. The air is polluted. Electricity and hot water supplies fail at inopportune times.
But then, there’s a lot to see. Over three thousand years, Indians have built up their culture, have been influenced by Muslim and European traders and invaders, and have created at least four religions, one of which has spread all the way to Japan. The traces are there be seen, and some are very impressive. Then, curries and tandoori aren’t a bad diet at all. And if you look closely, you even find people who actually want to make your stay a pleasant one. If they could just get those sales people and rickshaw drivers out of the way...
India has about four fifths of the land area of the European Union, more than twice the population, and four fifths the number of official languages. Trying to see all of India in one month is as silly as seeing Europe in a month. So I picked a few sample regions: Mumbai and Delhi as the most important cities, Kerala and Tamil Nadu for the south, Rajasthan and Agra for the north, and Bangalore to visit old friends. Even this list turned out to be a rather packed agenda.
Here they are, grouped by region: