All things Indian

“If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India!” ― Romaine Rolland

We live in a strange land. A country that is so hard to explain. In my job, I travel the world talking about our destination. Who we are, what we have to offer, why we are unique? People listen with fascination. But they also listen with bewilderment. Who are you people? What makes you tick? What is an Indian?

We are a poor, dirty country. We have disease everywhere. You are bound to get sick eating in India. The curse of the Delhi Belly is real. There are cows and beggars everywhere. Such are the images that we evoke in markets afar.

Yet, we are a country that put a spaceship into Mars orbit at a tenth of the cost and time taken by NASA. A few days ago, we came to a fraction of the moon’s surface in our maiden mission to the moon. We produce doctors, scientists and technicians that unquestionably run the world. We have the finest in fashions, cuisines and art. We run the most complex of elections. We have an economy others envy.

Therefore, I can only conclude that we are the most confusing, contradictory and evocative country in the world. Am I wrong?

And in our contradictions and confusion lie our biggest strengths.

I love talking about India when I travel. I enjoy the pleasures of life; my American shirts, Saville Row tailored suites, Tumi bags and Rolex watch. But as much as my exterior is modern, international, my insides are very deeply Indian. I walked out of a meeting in Los Angeles just to watch the Chandryaan 2 touchdown. I cried as every other Indian did. But I went back to explain to my friends that we may not have landed this time, but we will most certainly succeed soon. For that is the Indian way. We don’t give up.

I love sharing stories of why we are unique. Last week, I was travelling with a friend from the Americas who I just met a few months ago at a trade show. Who for whatever reason known to her, was captivated by my tales of our land. She too had heard stories of misery and gloom. But she took up my challenge to see it for herself and embarked on a journey to India that has sent her back changed. I asked her when she was leaving – did we succeed in touching your senses? Did the Taj put a sparkle in your eyes? Did the spices tingle your tongue? The jasmine flowers wake up your mind? The cashmere fabrics caress your skin? The religious chants touch your spirit? I had great happiness in seeing her eyes light up at every turn of the trip. In unfolding my country, petal by petal.

This tour was a trip that helped me remember why I like working in the travel industry in India. Sometimes we just forget how blessed we are to have a destination that simply does half our work. Our community has gotten so used to moaning and groaning day in and day out. We are by far one of the most unprofitable economic segments in India for the effort we put in. But, it simply takes seeing India through the eyes of a foreigner to understand how powerful we are.

I like to say that in my 25 years of working for my family, I have never in my life met anyone in the world who has been to India and said they regretted it. How many of you have felt the same emotions of watching a client, a traveller, a friend’s face light up with excitement when they visit our land. How many of you share the pride in showing the Taj Mahal, the Ghats of Varanasi, the by lanes of Old Delhi or the backwatersof Kerala? How can you not find joy in what we do?

I have travelled the world, to about 75 countries. I make it a point to study how they sell tourism. How they position their destinations. How they operate. I can say with pride that no one else sends back travellers with their minds, hearts and souls so changed like India does. I don’t know what it is, what we make them eat, or what is in our water. But when a traveller comes to India, they come to a true journey of the senses. No matter where you turn, what you see, what you feel, it is impossible not to let India take you over.

I never try to explain India. I say even we Indians don’t try to understand ourselves. I just get up every morning, give a two-thumbs up and say, ‘jolly good’. We’re still here. Let’s start another day. You cannot attempt to understand India. You can only experience India. And every day it’s a different country, a different time, a different future.

We in the travel industry need to moan less and take pride in having something no one else does. Our diversity of regions, of languages, of foods. Our twisted tales of history, our magnificent natural diversity, our colourful traditions.

My India is not a one size fits all. Everyone who comes here takes back something different. Yes, we do have our limitations on infrastructure for our industry. But at the end of the day, India is the finest travel product in the universe. So, let’s collectively put our heads together and focus on our positives, on our uniqueness and our passion. We have more energy and passion in us than anyone else. After all, despite the lack of support from the government, the high taxation and all the other issues that plague our industry, we are all still travelling the world to promote this great country.

India is amazing. Let’s believe in ourselves and lets shout to the world to remind them of that.

“This is indeed India!

“…. The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday’s bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.” ― Mark Twain, 1896

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