Why India fascinates the West so much
Clint Misquitta writes that medical tourism, virgin beaches, shopping, spirituality, culture and hospitality are some of Indian magnetisms that enchant so many people. From Mumbai.
She lays there in the crucible of time, awaiting her destiny to unfold. An eon would meander by and a civilization would feed at her bosom. This is India – once upon a time destined to be the womb of a ‘Billion people’, she lays there all that time ago, a land spread out in splendor and glory awaiting her children who would come from miles around into her welcoming arms.
From the very beginning the seat of Indian civilization, the Indus Valley has attracted visitors. Her wealth and splendor always had enough for all who came to seek solace - The Aryans, who arrived from the Eurasian Steppes, the Dravidians who were already inhabitants. Then, cities grew as can be seen through historical records, ancient cities dated around 2700BC – namely Mohenjodaro and Harappa amongst many others, which mushroomed and are testimonies to an organized and structured mind of the time.
As time passed, the Indian land was visited by various colonial regimes. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British. Each regime had its own mandate, motive, from their yearnings for spices to their evangelistic dispositions, they poured in from every side. In doing so, a primordial unknowing secularism began to take shape, one which would accommodate many a wandering soul.
Today independent India who is free of her external oppressors has a history that no horizon can describe, a culture that blends to define ‘brilliance’ and it is this evolution seen above which gives it a magnetism that even the West cannot resist.
So what is it this magnetism? And why?
India enchants the West. Some see it as a land of snake charmers. Still some think it is the land where they practice meditation that inducts peace of mind. Some others think it is a land of colorful festivals and varied rituals. But ultimately why the western tourist is fascinated with India is the peaceful and serene environment and the breathtaking beauty of our hill stations and beaches and historical monuments. The tourists come to enjoy a change and they get fulfilled with what they see and with the kind of fare that is dished out to them with the Indian hospitality and surroundings. In the process India is tourist destination number one in the world from the 4th position we held in 2004. After India gained Independence in 1947 we have witnessed advances in our infrastructure which facilitated tourism. Tourists started flocking our scenic and peaceful beauty spots because of the simplicity, honesty and a non-interfering attitude of the Indian people. They find peace and security on the virgin beaches abounding on the West Coast of India and the hill stations in most of the states. The Golden Triangle comprising Jaipur, Agra and Delhi beckons them. And of course who can miss the Kashmir Valley – a heaven – not only for the good.
Our western brethren also appreciate Indian attire. The Saris, Salwar Kameez’s, Kurta Pyjamas, Sherwanis; the list goes on and all these can be seen at a typical Indian wedding; a coy bride adorned with a colorful yet majestic gown flowing down her shoulders, simmering in the hot lights that bring out her agreeable disposition. Studded with gems and an opulence that is seated in tradition, you will be left agape, this is a guarantee.
Indian textiles and designs attract the west also, specially the dress apparels with intricate glass work on them. Men love the pyjamas and kurtas. They also buy curios from small scale industries, leather goods and other mementos in marble like those of Taj Mahal, the maharaja, the elephant that epitomizes the Indian culture. While doing all this shopping they travel by overcrowded trains and buses just to get the Indian experience. One which is indifferent to personal space. In a typical city like Mumbai or Delhi, foreigners are usually accompanied by Indian friends who take care of them because the pickpockets and other vandals mostly try to follow them for ulterior reasons.
Foreigners, specially the middle aged and the old come to relax in India. Once they have worked and decided to retire, there is no better destination than the Indian shores. The exchange rate also is an advantage, as a western visitor would easily get more for less. They get their money’s worth more than twice over compared to many other destinations as personal comforts like a thorough ayurvedic massage from head to foot, a crisp haircut and shave, staying in comfortable scenic surroundings with travel guides at their beck and call and savoring all the culinary delights from moghlai food, to coconut based South Indian food, spicy curries and even the favorite delicacy, chicken tikka, all contribute to a memorable experience. With Indian food though you will have to be careful of the spicy chutneys and the water, or else you will spend the next day in the comfort of your rest room. With all this, remember, that the technological revolution has caught up and there is no lack of any comfort in your hotel room.
In places like Goa, Kerala and Cochin on the West Coast of India, the Western traveler is simply spellbound with the breathtaking and virgin beaches that are palm fringed and sun drenched. Here the sands are white and sea breeze is embalming. Most of the tourists sunbathe and long after they are gone they experience enough nostalgia to come back to this scenic panorama and most of all very friendly people. Some of these travelers stay for up to 6 months or even more on these beaches on the west coast of India and some have even bought property and built bungalows where they return periodically. Some of these travelers holidaying in Goa have even exclaimed in Portuguese: ‘Quem viu Goa, não precisa de ver Lisboa’. Incidentally Goa was a Portuguese colony till 1961 when it was annexed by India. The incorrupt body of St. Francis Xavier lies in a silver casket at Old Goa in the Cathedral of Bom Jesus, and periodic expositions of the saint’s body attract tourists in hordes from all over the world.
Medical tourism is another important attraction for the western tourist. People from the Middle East and Europe, come to India for medical treatment as it is cheaper and the nurses are very hospitable and caring. They can, sometimes, hire private nurses to care for them. The hospital rooms are provided with a TV, morning newspaper and a wholesome vegetarian food if needed. Money exchange facilities are at hand and so the tourist is never short of funds.
Another tourist magnet is the Taj Mahal in Agra. This monument of love was built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the wonders of the world as it is chiseled out of white marble. The approach to this monument is very scenic and there is a moat surrounding it. In recent times the security is thorough. No packets of even food or cameras are allowed in. This is due to the fear of a terrorist strike. But once you are inside you can feel the peace of the place. Another place the tourist does not miss is the Kashmir valley in North India. It is nicknamed heaven on earth and no tourist can ever get enough of the tranquility and peace and the greenery that places like Gulmarg, Srinagar, Jammu and Ladakh and the Dal Lake provide. The 18-hole green golf course at Gulmarg is a attraction for the foreign golfers. The other places of interest are the Pink City of Jaipur, the Sun Temple in Orissa, the Orchid Sanctuary and the Deer Park in Sikkim. Then down South in Tamil Nadu (Madras) is the famous world-renowned Madurai Meenakshi Temple with its hall of thousand pillars, which boasts of Dravidian architecture and sculpture. The tourist can’t skip the garden city of Bangalore, in the state of Karnataka. Presently it is the IT (Information Technology) Center of India. The other places of interest in this State are the Jog Falls. Nandi Hills, Vidhan Souda to name a few.
The tourists who do a lot of shopping in Mumbai and Delhi do not miss the famous landmarks in both metros. In Bombay, the Gateway of India, Hanging Gardens, Colaba street shopping; and in Delhi, the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Jantar Mantar, to name a few. None can miss Karol Bagh, the great shopping center in Delhi and the food joints that dish out North Indian delicacies. The next attraction that needs mention is, spirituality. The famous band ‘Beatles’ in the 60’s and many others who followed came across the shores to try and find themselves amidst the busy and individualistic lives. Even today, especially in the foothills of the Himalayas, the northeastern front boasts of some of the most scenic and spiritual places in India. Yoga, meditation, and various other spiritual manifestations of Indian origin attract tourists as it offers them, meaning to a life that doesn’t usually find time to pause.
In the last decade, India has been the leading IT hub and Human resource hub of the world. Now, we have an influx of foreign students gracing our universities with their presence. They stand to get a wholesome education, although different from the west, it is one, which is strong in engineering, mathematics, logic, IT and discipline.
The list could go on, and volumes would still fall short in expressing what India offers its western visitors in a tangible form. A tourist cannot escape a wholesome experience, which is thrown at you through its festivals, dance, music, climate and people. Some of it can be forgetful; some just can’t be forgotten in a lifetime. They say that some things can be written about; others just have to be experienced. And it is this experience, which converges all the above points that attracts many a tourist. Once in India, tourists can check out but one thing is sure they can never leave. It is this ‘experience’ of India that mesmerizes. It’s the poise with which this land distinguishes herself with utmost grace and dignity and makes one feel at home and in touch with ones inner self.