I remember the anxiety before my first trip to India five years ago. It was the trip that took the virginity of me and Berit. At the time I could only count on the one hand fingers the people who I knew who had visited India. For me India was this great and mystic faraway land, though on arrival everything seemed more at its place than I had initially imagined. I could quite easily find an affordable accommodation, and rikshaw drivers did everything for you. For a piece of rupee everything could be arranged. But more or less everything had already been organized for you – guided tours or cafes, money exchanges or internet, laundry or a language course – all close at hand. Everything is there. And it works out well.
Yet right next to the well-arranged part of India there is always the good old India that’s amazing. In the shadows of the beaten tracks trampled in by the wheel of tourism there is still the real India, which startles, excites, and makes my head dizzy. But still, I could not swallow the shock just a half years ago when I heard someone calling India a mainstream travel destination. Could such a puzzle of cultures and chaos and madness ever be a mainstream travel destination?
Mainstream destination for (well, at least Estonian) hotel pool-loving tourists is probably Egypt and the Canaries. But spiritualist backpackers should drive well ahead to India. The spirituality flows here in through the doors (of perception?) faster than one could ever imagine, it seems to be written on those hundreds of colorful posters, flyers and distributed through tens of healing centers!
All that is probably much more tensed in this valley blessed by the presence of His Holiness Dalai Lama. But everyone choses his own means. If you want immediate and quick spiritual purification, go to the area of Dharamshala. If you just want quickly get tanned and rested, go to Sharm el-Sheikh.
And here we are now. This is not India. Although we are located in India, but it’s mostly a place for some certain mindset-developing for foreigners. But even here the India is resonating in each of its cell of life, so it is not so far at all, this real India. Even here between the hotels are some slum huts and rikshaw drivers are getting their evening booze somewhere nearby.
The white hippie is a bliss for them. He brings us the money! Everybody is happy. Everybody is happy is India.
Having lived near LcLeodGanj for five years, a retired flutist with blue eyes, who traveled to India across the continent from Athens for the first time during the Summer of Love, as a poor hitch-hiker, sleeping on the tree or in a riverbed, was mentioning it with a sigh – each year India becomes more and more touristic. But all this must be great, right? Right here grows the global responsibility, green thinking and the free flow of identity. And Indian rupee gathers its strength in turn.
Also, I remember that German sex worker Ulla from Shantaram (!) book, saying for the surprise of all guys in Leopold In Bombay – India has a big and beautiful future.
Brin, who also earns his bread in tourism sector, however, said that all that has made India a mainstream tourist destination has been only the initiative of the locals. The Government hasn’t done anything to catch the tourists flows to India. On the contrary, for example, they have shortened the visa for Israelis from six months to three, and for Israelis it seems to be a very popular life-pattern – after two-year war service they become a hippie in India. Many restaurants have already printed their menu in Hebrew language. Also, they are pinching the Russians’ possibilities for a month-long rave parties. Russians are the ones joking, that they have their own state in India – Goa.
Mainstream or not – India is sufficiently large and colorful, so that it certainly leaves some space for the mainstream chill’n'smoke’n'sandwich leisure and for real hardcore travelling. However, if you want to enjoy comfortable and affordable life – read, write, learn Nepali language, or do yoga – I couldn’t know a better solution than is offered by a “mainstream” India on the foot of the Himalayas.