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An update from Evaneos

India today, between development and tradition

India traditions and development

India is one of the oldest civilisations in the world,whose customs are still very present whether they're religious, gastronomical or societal. Conflicts between communities have been a issue in daily life for a long time (conflict between Hindus and Muslims leading to the creation of Pakistan, or between Sikhs and Hindus with the Punjabi massacre and the assassination of Indira Gandhi) but now seem to have calmed.

Even if the cause is far from being resolved, no attack linked to religious issues has been recorded since 2012 and security measures are present throughout the country. It still remains impossible however to visit India with stating that the disparities in the community linked to religion, castes or simply to the country's geography, are immense.

A country marked by colonialism 

Though independence was achieved in 1950, the colonialist past of India remains highly visible depending on the region. The architecture is marked by the British presence, particularly in Mumbai or Delhi where the old districts are full of grand old buildings or monuments built under colonial rule. The Indian people have also taken up the habit of renaming cities and monuments to detach them from the exterior influence and especially to re-establish the link with their roots: Bombay became Mumbai, Madras took the name of Chennai, and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Mumbai was renamed Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum.

You will hear lots of people talking about Gandhi during your trip. It is also common for every Indian person to have a personal story about him: born in the same village, an ancestor knew him... In India your nationality can help you to benefit from the kindness of the local people, or conversely, to receive their disinterest. If you are British or American there can be some more persistent feelings of resentment but despite this, the Indian people remain very pacifistic.

An old societal system

In the majority Hindu, India is nowadays pulled between modernity and conformism, as much in terms of religion as in family (children leaving for jobs in the city or abroad) or in the caste system which is still in place.

If you talk with Indian people, several will talk about one of these things with pride: they have perhaps had a love marriage just like they dream about in Bollywood films, as opposed to the rest of the population who still have arranged marriages (be careful not to cast judgement however, lots of Indians are happy with this system whereby their parents choose their partner thus ensuring a good relationship between the families and proving their respect for their ancestors. It is also allowed to refuse suitors, they are arranged marriages but not forced).

If it's not their marriage, they will be proud to tell you about their caste and so their position in society. Once again it's very difficult for us, Western people, to see justification for the poverty or the communitarianism of this system but be aware that Ambedkar, the leader of the untouchables during his time, largely participated in writing the Indian constitution, going far beyond his position. There is hope then! 

A sacred cow on Palolem beach, India

A popular tourist destination

For all of these differences and singularities, India attracts more and more tourists. Ayurvedic retreats, yoga discoveries, interstate treks: you'll come across other travellers no matter what your destination. It's very rare to only go to India once as the country has so much to offer in terms of monuments, landscapes, activities... also talk to other travellers for future holiday ideas.

Despite their kindness, pacifism and hospitality, I was sometimes surprised or irritated by the looks that Indians gave me wherever I was (big cities or villages). The locals explained to me that although tourism has had a strong development, you will often be the first Western person that passer-bys will have come across in the street. What's more, light skin is considered as an extremely beautiful feature so try to put up with these insistent looks. In the end there's no obligation to say yes to taking a photo with people when you're asked (which will happen regularly), you can refuse it with a smile.

Elodie Arnouk
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