Discover India One Cliché at a Time

Cliche No.3: Indian Food = Delhi Belly

Street food straight from the wok at a weekend market of Siliguri, West Bengal. Photo by Mukul Satya Gupta
Street food straight from the wok at a weekend market of Siliguri, West Bengal. Photo by Mukul Satya Gupta

While you were looking the other way, we travelled light years away from the days of yore when all that India seemingly offered for sustenance was hot and indescribably spicy. Now, apart from the ubiquitous McDonalds, Pizza Huts, Costa Coffees (and, oh mother of god, even Star Bucks), we have eateries that provide Indian food the way it’s served at home – simple, oil-free, delicious.

Roadside stalls will customise your food to keep it authentic yet chilly-controlled. Street food is not necessarily peddled near a reeking drain. Most of us in urban India have water purifiers or buy treated water for consumption; either ways the water is germ-free. That leaves you, the traveller, Delhi Belly-free. By the way, we also serve wine (hallelujah!). Red, white, sparkling, hi-end, lowbrow, take your pick. Indulge. If you ask us though, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as buttermilk.

Cliché No.4: India is the Taj

A one-horned rhino tries to escape the glare of tourists at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The park is a World Heritage Site and boasts of almost two-thirds of the global population of the one-horned rhino. Photo by Mukul Satya Gupta
A one-horned rhino tries to escape the glare of tourists at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The park is a World Heritage Site and boasts of almost two-thirds of the global population of the one-horned rhino.
Photo by Mukul Satya Gupta

Ever heard of the Masroor rock-cut temple or the Kohima war cemetery? The Gue Mummy or Raja Hari Singh’s palace? That’s the problem. For a long time PR firms have blatantly plugged the Taj Mahal, and foreigners have willy nilly succumbed to its charms. Whether or not it is, as author Salman Rushdie said, “the loveliest of things” or “a poverty of imagination”— as writer Aldous Huxley said — this ode to love is not the one-pony trick India seems to possess in foreign perception.

Churn your mind. Look above and beyond the horizon where trite-meets-customary (Goa, Rajasthan, Jaipur, Agra et al), and you’ll witness a spectacular rainbow of architecture, history, heritage. Like Ladakh for its stunning Hemis monastery and Gujarat for the awe-inspiring Rann; Lucknow for its incredible Bhool Bhulaiya and Nagaland for the Hornbill festival. Instead of being a lazy tourist, turn adventurous and get to where no friend of yours has gone before. No, we aren’t for a moment suggesting you forego the Taj, just keep your eyes and your mind open to new experiences!

A Hindu sadhu in the small town of Anjar in Kutch, Gujarat. Photo by Mukul Satya Gupta
A Hindu sadhu in the small town of Anjar in Kutch, Gujarat.
Photo by Mukul Satya Gupta

It is said a traveller sees what he sees, a tourist sees what he has come to see. When in India become a traveller, please. And while you are at it, pack two things in your kit to enjoy the guaranteed twists and turns. 1.) Turn on your sensory filters. Learn to see and yet not see certain things; hear and yet not the sounds you detest; smell the foul but also learn to obliterate it. In short, use your abilities selectively. And 2.) Refuse to get intimidated by the gigantic beast. Only then can you do any justice to it.

If you are ready, India welcomes you with open arms.

Author bio: Shilpa Gupta (formerly Rohatgi) is a confused freelance travel writer who, in some state of clarity in a previous lifetime, had worked as a journalist with some of India’s top publications including India Today and The Indian Express. As the deputy editor of Marie Claire India, she had written on a range of subjects, some rather controversial, like polyandry, drug abuse among Indian women, and Jain sadhvis (nuns). READ MORE

 

 

 

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