The Ingenuity of India
I spent eight awe-inspiring days in India and left thinking not just about the spectacular sites, breathtaking palaces and exquisite food—but about the ingenuity and positivity of the people.
I began my tour of India in Delhi, where I was greeted with one of my first and most long-lasting impressions of this incredible country—seven people on one motorcycle. Four adults, three children, no helmets and plenty of purses and packages. “Welcome to Delhi,” I laughed to myself. This image isn’t just indicative of how populated the city is, but rather of the resourcefulness and resolve of its people. Somehow, regardless of economic standing, people just make it work.
We explored Old and New Delhi and observed the unique blending of the historic and the modern. At the market, monkeys literally swung overhead from electric wires, which were spliced so frequently that they looked like spools of spaghetti. Vivid visuals like this one will be forever etched in my memory.
People bathed without shame in the public baths, right next to restaurants and storefronts. India is a land of juxtaposition. You’ll behold incredible palaces and timeless monuments (Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Humayun’s Tomb, to name just a few), but I’d be remiss not to mention that you’ll also see hardship and poverty. I was moved by people’s palpable pride and, again, by their resourcefulness. Space is at a premium in Delhi, so entrepreneurial merchants do business from pop-up shops in front of closed store fronts. No space, or opportunity, is wasted.
That day, we had lunch in The Spice Route restaurant at the Imperial Hotel. Condé Nast regards it as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world, and you can instantly see why. The architecture and design alone are enough to earn it a spot, to say nothing of the food—creative Southeast Asian cuisine representative of the cities that marked the spice route back to Europe. It took seven years to complete, and the immaculately curated rooms are hand-painted and teeming with poetry in its design.
Another highlight of my trip was our time in Jaipur, where the streets are alive with painters, potters, artists and antique dealers. We visited the breathtaking Amber Fort. Its halls are decorated with ivory, mirror and glass, and its marvelous terraces and ramparts reflect in the Maota Lake below.
Memorably, we played camel polo. My camel and I scored two goals and helped our team win the first chukker (round). It certainly made for an unforgettable event. We followed this with a trip to the City Palace Museum to see the impressive collection of royal robes, paintings and old weapons. We were also granted access to Shoba Niwa, a one-of-a-kind room draped in gold and precious stones used by the royal family for private dinners and cocktails.
On our drive to Udaipur, we encountered a group of women reminiscent of a bachelorette party on the roadside. An Indian wedding takes place over several days, so these ladies—friends and family of the bride—were in the midst of one of many jubilant celebrations. They were headed to the bridal suite to get it ready for the night. They looked breathtaking in marigold saris (with the exception of the groom’s sister, who was dressed in drag). We pulled over to chat with them and found ourselves swept up in their dancing and cheering. They welcomed us like family, and I appreciated the intimate glimpse into India’s beautiful and hospitable culture.
One of the most enduring mental images from my trip, despite all the iconic palaces and tombs we toured, remains the organized chaos that is Indian traffic. Getting anywhere, on foot or by car, was like a well-choreographed dance with a hint of improvisation. You don’t acknowledge traffic rules—you acknowledge that you don’t acknowledge them. The streets teemed with people, vehicles, bikes, animals, yet I saw just one fender bender my entire trip. People just make it work.
By the end, I’d learned to cross the road slowly and with purpose, like the locals. Cars yielded to me because I showed intent with my movements. This memory is as dear to me as our visit to the Taj Mahal (I’ll tell you about that next time). It’s indicative of the ingenuity and beauty of Indian culture.
To arrange your own one-of-a-kind experience in India, contact The Accomplished Traveler today. Call 212.586.2020.
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