By Bruce Hodge
Bronwyn Hodge meets a devotee of Lord Shiva in Varanasi, the Hindu Holy City.
From the time my children were very young and they had an imaginary friend called Punjab, I promised I would one day take them to India (or the Indian sub continent). Well, I did that with my son several years ago when an opportunity arose before he had to go back to university. He was 20, it was August and it was the monsoon season…but we went touring and trekking in Nepal. It turned out to be an amazing “dad and son” experience we’ll never forget…particularly picking off the leeches on our trek (it was the rainy season remember).
Dad and Daughter visit the Taj Mahal
Recently I enjoyed a “dad and daughter” trip in India fulfilling my promise to her. The catalyst this time was being invited to a Navjote ceremony of the daughter of an Indian friend. This is a very special event and I was honoured to be invited. I strong armed my daughter (22 years old) to take time off from her job (she works in Australia) and join me.
When requesting our staff to customize a short itinerary for us, I stipulated Mumbai (for the ceremony), Ranthambore (to see a tiger), Varanasi (the Holy city on the Ganges) and Agra (the Taj Mahal). In our very rushed itinerary we did all these (except we were not fortunate enough to see any tigers on the two safaris we took) and also visited Delhi. We saw amazing sights, temples, palaces and forts.
But India is more than just sites. Their tourism board uses the word “incredible” and it is. It is more than a tourist destination…it is more an experience of all our senses. Most globetrotting travellers love it… but some don’t.
“I don’t think mum would like India” Bronwyn stated on our 2nd last day. “Mum would want to save every stray dog in the country”.
Well that might be, but Bronwyn enjoyed the whole experience. She learned the history of the British Raj and a man called Gandhi. She witnessed street wedding processions and funerals. She enjoyed a bicycle rickshaw ride, wandering through old markets and a row boat on the Ganges. She also enjoyed the food, although everywhere we stayed served western meals. She even went to a yoga class.
Her biggest challenge was understanding the co-existence of wealth and poverty while everyone seems to have a “can-do attitude”. India has over 300 million middle class people, approximately the population size of America. In Mumbai we visited the slums and the construction site of the most expensive family residence in the world.
Yes India is Incredible.
Bronwyn wants to go back and so do I for a fourth time. There is so much to see and do and experience and I have only been writing about Northern India. Apparently more travellers go to Southern India than the North.
This is a reprint of an article that appeared in Globetrotting Magazine, Spring/Summer 2009
Bruce is the Founder and President of Goway Travel. He and his daughter Bronwyn travelled to India in March, 2007. Bronwyn returned to India with a girlfriend and spent three months travelling all over the country. Bruce now plans to visit India in March for three weeks with his wife Claire.
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