Don’t expect a vacation in the ordinary sense of the term, as the main sight is India itself. None of the listed sights are the true highlights.
What was better than I had expected:
1. The overall friendliness, sparkle and wit of the Indians I have spoken to.
2. The quality of the food; I have a few times heard the erroneous claim that Indian food is better outside of India. Don’t believe it.
3. I recall an old saying that in matters of religion, every Indian is a millionaire. This becomes evident on one’s first day in the country.
4. Sitting in parks, people-watching, and seeing the human drama in the small things.
5. Availability of Western consumer goods, including Coca-Cola. It’s been a while since India has been stringently protectionist.
6. The prices of Indian classical music CDs, and yes I mean the legitimate issues; I now have a stock of Pandit Kumar.
7. It is easier to get a straight answer here than I had been led to believe.
My biggest problems:
1. Air quality in central Delhi. It is hard to walk for more than an hour. And more generally Delhi is not a city with anything to walk to, it is one cab ride after the other.
2. There is no street which is truly atttractive. At least I haven’t found one yet. That being said, I am no longer sure I want to find one. Even the “nice” parts of Delhi can be more run down than the not-so-nice parts of, say, Mexico City.
3. Being tempted by street food, so far I have yet to succumb, I fear what will happen when I do.
Assorted humorous moments: Seeing a large cadre of baffled Japanese tourists with newly-acquired red dots on their foreheads. Hearing my Taj Mahal guide speak of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts in glowing terms. Being considered a marvel because I know what a “mango lassi” is. Almost meeting an unfortunate end on a motorized tricycle rickshaw; the driver played a strategy of precommitment while entering a busy motorway.
Animals seen on trip from Delhi to Agra: Bears, monkeys, water buffalos, camels, swan-like birds, and cows too numerous to count.
Saddest moment: Seeing ultrasound clinics in rural areas.
I’ll write another post of this ilk once I have more experiences to relate. I am here speaking for Parth Shah’s Centre for Civil Society. They are an excellent group devoted to bringing market-oriented ideas to India.