Namaste is the greeting used in India. It means: the divine light within me bows to the divine light within you. My family has visited India twice, and we hope to go there again in the upcoming years. India is a country with so many places to visit. To help narrow things down, I suggest tourists categorize where they visit and what they do through the 3 C’s- culture, cuisine and custom.
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Culture: Dance is a huge aspect in Indian culture. It can range from modern to classical. The best way to experience modern dance is to visit a local theater and watch a Bollywood movie. Classical dance can be experienced through visiting a local dance school. The rhythm of Indian dance is invigorated through raga, and the sound of the music, through tala.
Art can be seen at museums, but to see an artist at work go get a Henna tattoo; don’t worry, they’re not permanent. Watch the intricate designs come to life as you feel the cooling touch of this brown paste with the fresh scent of eucalyptus circulating in your nose.
India’s history is long and you could spend days reading about it. But why read about it when you can walk through it? The most well-known leader in India’s history was Mahatma Gandhi. Visit his birthplace in Vidyanagar. Walk through his house and you will feel as if you are walking through his biography.
Cuisine: One word comes to mind when people think of Indian food – curry. What is curry? When you travel to India, discover each spice individually, and try to avoid the word curry, otherwise known as a blend of spices. Not many people in India actually know what curry is. Learn about cumin, poppy seeds, cloves, cardamom, chili, pepper, ginger, garlic, and the main ingredient that puts color to everything – turmeric.
Sit down restaurants are always classy and sanitary but take a daring challenge and try eating at a lari, or a cart that carries food. Make sure to ask if they use purified water, and you’ll be surprised to find that sometimes sitting inside in the air conditioning isn’t worth giving up the savory food from the lari.
Lastly, as I introduce the last category of customs, don’t ask for silverware. Learn the ways of eating with your hands, being that they are clean of course. Ask someone sitting near by the proper way to use just one hand to rip into a fresh roti (bread) to dip into the robust shaak (vegetable blend).
Custom: What’s visiting India when you don’t do a few things a typical Indian would do daily? Take a break from the fabulous luxury hotel you’re staying at for just one night. Learn how to use a squat or eastern-styled toilet, and figure out how life works without the toilet paper. Try taking a standing shower without a showerhead and nothing but a cup, bucket, and bar of soap. Sleep in a room with no air conditioning except for the circling fan, and say hey to your friend, the lizard staring down at you from the ceiling. Or choose to sleep in one of the most beautiful places ever, the flat roof. Gaze up at the stars and feel the best breeze you could possibly get in India. Then wake up to the warm sun and the sound of the monkeys jumping roof to roof.
India is the lotus country because the lotus grows to be a beautiful flower from a swampy environment. Ignore the underdeveloped conditions for once in life and embrace the beauty of this country.
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