Incredible India!

I read today – Tourism ministry hires 15 agencies for Rs 70 cr Incredible India campaign

And remembered what Harini, TV producer, blog mela host and friend told me a few days about why she hates Rajasthan …. the way men just look at you there and say you, aurrrrrrat

And there is another reason I dislike Rajasthan – oh, its a beautiful magical place alright – but that state never fails to amaze and dismay me with its orientation towards foreign tourists… at the exclusion of ‘locals’ (or is the word ‘natives’?)

This happened last October on a holiday in Rajasthan – I had made reservations at a haveli-type-hotel in Jodhpur – because we were travelling with an elderly family friend… I had found this place and booked on the net. We reached in the middle of the night ——-
and many unpleasant hours later, the manager told us that we could leave if we did not like the place – and he said, this is the problem with you Indians… And why – were we creating any nuisance – no, but we were complaining about the fact that the waiters at the restaurant had taken our order and then not served us – at all…

And oh, he was a Rajasthani… not “Indian”, mind you – Rajasthani… And this was in Jodhpur, India.

And the argument started…. And things only got better (in hindsight, things always seem better – because by then you think they are funny…)

The manager continued, if I had known that you were Indians, I would not have given you bookings here… After which of course, there was no point in arguing – what does one say? And as we came out, the auto driver who took us in search of another hotel told us, par aap yahan kaise pahunch gaye? woh loge to sirf firangi ko andar aane dete hain… (how did you reach this place? they allow only foreigners inside…)

Ok, so we didn’t get thrown out of the railway compartment – but then we weren’t in South Africa either… This was India in 2004….

Incredible India alright.

And this is something I had written long ago on my previous blog…

The colours of racism

Have you always, like me, associated racism with ‘white’ ?

Read this very interesting article by Martin Jacques in the Guardian, The Global Hierarchy Of Race.

Racism, he points out, is not the ‘prerogative’ of the whites although they are on top of the pile. In various rungs lower down are the yellows, the browns and various other colours of the spectrum.

A veritable race rainbow ?

The one thing in common is, he points out, is denial as the natural response to any society to insinuations of racism. Nations are never honest about themselves: they are all in varying degrees of denial.

A friend of mine was in Korea recently and has lots of stories of discrimination…. Koreans consider themselves superior to Indians and other South Asians…. basis what, please? You can be called Paki in the UK or jihadi in the US…. But then, why am I talking about the whites ? Closer home, in a country dangerously obsessed with skin tone, you can be called a dark madrasi…

Racism obviously begins at home….

Update : Tarun asks me why I am “afraid” to mention the name of the guesthouse in this post here – as I replied to him, it just didn’t occur to me – and the point was not about this particular guesthouse but the general attitude in the place – some of the localites later told us that there were many such small hotels/guesthouses which catered only to foreigners – no harm in that I guess, except I wish they would mention this clearly in their website / at the time of making reservations. Incidentally and not at all surprisingly, such places ara rated very high in the lonely planets and rough guides of the world – but clearly, we were not the target audience for these guides.

This place is called Haveli Guesthouse and believe me, the place is nowhere like these pictures on their website suggests.

City of hope or despair?

Bombay no longer a city of hope? asked a couple of people at this blog after reading Once was Bombay?. To me, Bombay will always be the city of hope (not so sure about Mumbai though, if you know what I mean)… Where people come to make a living – whether from Bihar to be a coolie at Bombay Central or from UP to drive a taxi or from Gajraula to be a film-star… where between Mahalakshmi and Siddhi Vinayak – and Haji Ali, people believe that the gods ensure they who come to this city rarely go away disappointed….

And here Uma writes about the collapse and decline of the city (with interesting links as usual within the posts – do read End of the Mumbai dream by Samar Halarnkar)….

The city evolves, says Dheepak – meaning the old must make way for the new…. But if this is progress, then leave us alone, I say…

Once was Bombay?

Scene : Juhu at 8 p.m. last friday – self with friend from Bangalore – trying to get a cab. As one cabbie after the other refused to take us – and were rude to top that – (as our destination was fairly close by) – my friend said, what is happening to bombay? I can’t believe this is Bombay!

What is happening to Bombay? This is the city that I have grown to love in the past eight years that I have been working and living here – although I have lived in Bangalore and London in short spells in this while, I have returned to Bombay each time feeling happy to be back “home”…

And now, everything that I held dear about the city (all the myths?), I see being shattered one after the other…

Bombay has always been considered one of the the safest places in India – especially for women – and now, who can point fingers at Delhi any longer?

Power cuts used to be unheard of earlier – and now residential areas in any case swelter in summer with the frequent power shut downs; Bombay says hello darkness to billboards too…

And for me the last straw was when I went to ‘town’ (I live in vashi, alright?) last weekend and found the second hand pavement book shops had all but disappeared. Part of the ‘cleaning up’ of Bombay… ironically these shops were missing earlier too during the Kala Ghoda and Mumbai festival – why, these shops are (sadly, were) as much part of Bombay’s heritage as any British era building

I used to think living in Bombay spoils you for life in any other place… no longer? Slowly for me this city is turning into Mumbai… ‘Morality’ before all else!

Once was Bombay is the name of a book by Pinky Virani

Private beaches

There is a program on Discovery Travel and Living called Top Secret beaches – well, I just found some of my own – we started with all intentions of driving to Goa – but ended up at other beaches on the way – all of them beautiful and mostly quiet – secluded enough to be your own private top secret one….

The first stop was at Harihareshwar – a small temple town by the sea…

View from the top


Then Ganpatiphule – the sand dunes of Ganpati – crowded just around the temple area but very quiet as you walk away to find your own space… And Ratnagiri – of mangoes and the Burmese connection – if you have read Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace – and spectacular views of the sea crashing against the rocks – from the ruined fort…


And the best at last – Tarkarli – Maharashtra tourism’s proud discovery – Tarkarli is fine sand, clear waters, lazing on hammocks, millions of stars on the sky at night – and lots of seafood for those so inclined… and boat rides on the backwaters – coconut trees, enough blues and greens to compete with god’s own colours… and the backwaters leading to more private beaches….


MTDC has cottages on the beach – and I mean right on the beach – expect no great service but great views and you will be happy there…

More photographs on flickr…. do have a look sometime…

Cosmo on the railway platform

I was away this weekend in a small town on the Andhra Pradesh – Karnataka border – one of those thousands of towns across India racked by identity crisis – literally, as the journey takes you across AP and Karnataka in turns every few minutes (this happened to me in MP – UP too) – now you see boards in Kannada and now in Telugu and now again in both AND Urdu too!

Anyway, the point is that as I was waiting for the train to arrive at the sation (on my way back to Bombay yesterday), I browsed through the small book stall on the platform. This guy did not have any newspapers in English – Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Urdu, yes, but English, no.

Neither did he seem to have any English magazines – when he proudly dug out one for me – the latest issue of Cosmopolitan! Obviously small town rural India’s priorities too centre around ‘eight ways to keep your man hot’ (or whatever, now that summer is here).

I am still trying to understand this – and while on this, will a Hindi edition of Cosmo sell as well?

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