Why India?

It’s funny how, depending on what the destination, people will ask why are you going there. No one asked why I went to France. No one asked why I went to Mexico. I got why Ghana a fair amount. Not so many people are familiar with any country in Africa, so it was a great opportunity to share information.

India, however, is not a small little-known country. Everyone I talk to has some knowledge of it, and they all at least know about the Taj Mahal, India’s most famous monument.  It’s been fun answering the question of why I’m going to India, and it’s made me think about it and examine my reasons a little bit.

I may have been around fourteen when I read about the Taj Mahal for the first time. The love story behind its construction and the beauty of its design immediately inspired a desire to see it.

Jain Temple, photo by McKay Savage

Indian architecture is as diverse, complex and exciting as its cuisine. The multiplicity of religions has resulted in the construction of many different styles of temples, mosques and other places of worship that are inspiring to the eye as well as to the soul. A country which has been invaded numerous times, India’s many fortresses are as awe inspiring as the interior chambers are beautiful. Palaces and mansions add to India’s architectural confectionery.

Jodhpur, not easily mistaken for Paris or Washington, DC
photo by Tom Maisey

Cultures that are greatly different from my own are more fascinating to me than cultures which aren’t.  I’ve got several European destinations on my travel wishlist, but each time I need to make a choice, places more remote and exotic win me over.

Women in saris, photo by Adam Jones

I love the bright colors, the flowing saris, the fluttering salwar kameez and the glittering veils that Indian women wear.  Indian clothing is graceful and beautiful, both men’s and women’s.

“Indian cuisine,” I’m discovering, is a grossly inadequate phrase. The country is so vast, and there are so many regional specialties that that doesn’t tell you anything more specific than “European cuisine” would. I’m excited about trying some new dishes, but I’m also a little apprehensive. Indians are fond of chilies. Me, not so much. In Togo I once bit into what I thought was a green bean in my soup. It was a chili pepper so hot that it made my eyes water and my mouth burn for what seemed like forever.

Indian vegetarian dishes, photo by Deror Avi

Regardless, I’m hoping that this will turn out to be more of a foodie vacation than I’ve ever had. Indians cook a lot with dairy products, which I love.  I’m really looking forward to eating my way through Rajasthan. And I’m planning on eating street food.

There are so many things about India, its culture and its people that attract me, I could very likely stay here indefinitely and never discover them all. There are so many things that attract me to India, the question is less why India than why did it take me so long to go there.


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