India: Debunking 5 popular misconceptions

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India: Debunking 5 popular misconceptions

Myth 1: India is a place of poverty and desperation

Reality: Natural Focus Safaris marketing manager Praful Albuquerque

It is ironic that India, once considered a land of milk and honey and fought over by various invaders over hundreds of years, is now perceived as a land gripped by poverty. In India today there are more millionaires per capita than many first world countries, as well as a large middle class. The economy is booming. While there is a segment of the populace that lives below the poverty line, this is mainly urban poverty which is a result of the huge influx of people moving into cities and towns for work and insufficient infrastructure being available to cope with this.

It is a monumental challenge for the government, which is doing everything possible to improve infrastructure and provide free primary education. It is difficult for people who have grown up in a first world economy to understand how people in India with relatively poor living standards can be happy and content without designer handbags, morning lattes and fine dining. However, the fact is Indians in general are very accepting of their situation due in part to their strong religious beliefs.

Myth 2: India is all about Bollywood and ashrams

Reality: Tempo Holidays India product manager John Saporito

Far from it. India mesmerises with its diversity, pageantry and colour. Goa alone promises travellers an exciting and diverse experience. Occupied by the Portuguese until the late 1960s, this tourist hotspot features an eclectic mix of culture and religion including both Christianity and Hinduism, temples and churches, Indo-Portuguese architecture and food (it’s the birthplace of vindaloo) plus 125 km of coastline full of white sandy beaches.

Kerala is another diverse state where travellers can unleash their inner adventurer and go white water rafting, mountain climbing or take a challenging trek. Alternatively, there are few better ways to relax than by cruising its backwaters on traditional houseboats or experiencing the ancient form of healing known as Ayurveda, which is widely practised in Kerala. India is also famous for its abundance of natural wildlife including elephants, deer and monkeys. It’s also renowned for its tiger reserves like Kanha National Park and its luxury train journeys including Maharajas’ Express and Royal Rajasthan on Wheels.

Myth 3: The locals worship cows

Reality: InterAsia Tours travel manager Rosita Fernandes

Some people believe cows are worshipped in India, but a visitor is unlikely to encounter any local Hindus falling to their knees at the sight of a bovine. Reverence takes a different form on the Subcontinent. The large beasts wander freely through crowded streets. When one plants itself in the middle of a busy intersection, the traffic adapts. It’s difficult enough being a passenger in a rickshaw at the best of times, not least when you swerve to avoid a stationary cow. But for those looking for a cultural experience that is slightly more familiar, McDonalds in India doesn’t serve beef in their burgers — the Chicken Maharaja-Mac is an adequate Big Mac replacement.

Visitors will find that worship in India is not about singing from the pews or lying prostrate before an unforgiving cow. People’s unassuming respect for the animal only adds a little spice to the chaos in India. It might be unpalatable to begin with, but as your tolerance grows, it only becomes more fun.

Myth 4: The weather is always hot and rainy

Reality: Beacon Holidays director Himanshi Munshaw-Luhar

India is a big country and it’s easy for everyone to assume that the whole country is hot through limited depictions.

There are some contrasting climates from the deserts of Rajasthan to the Himalayas, the hill stations to the coastal regions, and warm waters perfect for swimming. North India goes through all four seasons, from a hot summer to a cold winter. We get snow in places like Kashmir and Shimla and even have ski resorts like Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir.

The rains come at the end of June early July and finish towards the middle of September. It is not a cold bitter rain but more like a tropical rainfall. Travel to Kerala in September and the whole state is green. While the summers from March to June are hot and humid, the post monsoon season from October to February is cool and comfortable and is the best time to visit the country.

Myth 5: All dishes are curry-based

Reality: Ram World Travel director Ram Gusain

The history of food in India is as old as history itself. One should see it personally to understand that Indians, by and large, love their food. It is interesting to note that each region of India has some speciality or another when it comes to their food. Curry is one of the many dishes that Indians make in their homes and also in the Indian restaurants. But it’s wrong to say that all food or dishes in India are curry-based.

There are other dishes too, such as potatoes and fenugreek leaves, mushroom and pea, spinach and cheese, as well as lentil soup, which are all vegetarian dishes. In these there are no curry-based spices required. In addition, there is Tandoori chicken, prawns, fish and lamb which are marinated in herbs and spices and then cooked in a tandoor.