|Subject: Re: Warning regarding India|
I shall be in India from August 23 for about four weeks. Three of those weeks are allocated to the photographic tour I take north from Delhi. We go via Shimla and Manali and then over the Himalaya (by coach) to Leh. Then striking west we go to Srinagar, stay a few days on a houseboat on Lake Dal and the fly back to Delhi. We have a side trip to Agra at the end of the trip. If there is a problem with Kashmir then we avoid it and go with plan B.
After my clients leave I shall probably go to Amritsar in the Punjab and cross over into Pakistan for a few days. The thing I'm interested in is the military theatre of closing the border. It's a highly regimented (pun intended) affair with military guards on both sides of the border mounting a mirage image ceremony. What one side does the other does at exactly the same time. The culmination is the slamming of the gates shut (and I mean slamming very hard) and lowering the flags. These are done very slowly so that both flags descend at once and neither becomes higher than the other.
The spectacle is well visited by Indian and Pakistan visitors on their respective sides. I photographed the event last year from the Indian side, this time it will be from the Pakistani side.
You'll find India slowly catching up with the Western world in some regards. Delhi has ATMs, there's far more traffic in the cities and the middle class is growing.
Of course there is still the grinding poverty, mostly in the rural areas and amongst the tribal people and scheduled casts. These are the people NGOs and the government have recognised as the disadvantaged in India.
The railway system is still magnificent and there has been an upgrade in service and rolling stock. The Shatabdi expresses are air conditioned and you get airline treatment with newspapers, drinks and newspapers. The place to organise your railway travel is in the air conditioned special office just for foreigners above the main Delhi railway station. You have to pay in foreign currency though.
I always feel safe in India. With a lot of expensive camera gear, I've wondered around the back streets of Old Delhi in places that tourist rarely visit. Never did I feel under any threat but was invited in for tea, breakfast or a just a chat by many people. Some of those photographs are in The Lonely Planet Delhi guide.
Goa has changed I believe. I was last there in 1986 and rented a house for about a US$1 a week. It was very laid back, no tourist development as the main market was budget-minded backpackers.