Last modified: 2012-04-27T20:46:02Z
Published: Sunday, Apr. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1H
The place: India
The expert: Ravi Verma, 47, was born in India and came to the United States in his 20s. At least once a year he leads a group of 35 Buddhist pilgrims back to India.
>What are some cultural differences between India and the United States, and how should travelers react?
If you have been called "high maintenance" once in your lifetime, think hard before you venture in that direction. If you have been called high maintenance more than once, don't go. India tests the limits of Western organized and structured life.
The statement, "Our hotel has hot water" may mean that you run the hot water tap for 10 minutes before water that is hot shows up. Having Wi-Fi may mean downloading one email in five minutes. Things constantly change; plans are made to be altered in a few minutes to address new realities.
India is for those who "go with the flow." If you are comfortable with change, you will love India.
Another big cultural difference is that Indians stare at other sentient beings. Men stare at women and men, women stare at men and women. Westerns get unnerved by staring. Usually it is harmless Indians are very curious people. Every civilization or race or religion that reached India was dealt with curiosity and given a place to settle down. The result is an amazing diversity.
And lastly, India seems like a very rule-bound and ritualized country, and Westerners worry about breaking them. In reality, most rules can be broken without any upheaval.
>Do you have any tips on the least expensive ways (airfare, train, ship) to get to India?
Airfare in off season when schools are in session is dramatically cheaper. The price from the United States can be from $1,400 to $1,800 depending upon the season.
>How safe and efficient is the rapid transportation (bus, subway, taxi)?
Trains are the most efficient way to travel in India. But it takes planning, for they get booked way in advance. Within a city, taxis are good.
>What are two places where you can experience the real India, the non-touristy part?
The area around the India-Nepal border is very quiet and very beautiful. I will recommend Shravasti and the outskirts of Gorakhpur.
>If your in-laws were to come visit you in India, where would you have taken them and why?
It will depend upon two things: if they are high-maintenance or in poor health. If one of those two conditions applies, I would keep them in New Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore. If they are neither of those, then I would add Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Rajgir and Darjeeling.
>How would you describe the locals' attitude toward tourists in their midst?
It depends on the place. Usually Indians are curious and can overwhelm a quiet, introvert and private Westerner without meaning any harm. In places like New Delhi, it can be unsafe for women as there have been several incidents of misbehavior. Most Indians treat tourists with curiosity and warmth.
>What is the one place not to miss when in India?
The Taj Mahal.
>Would you ever consider going back, either to visit or live?
What I have learned in the United States, I am sharing with my folks in India like not staring at people you don't know, and the value of punctuality. I am moving back to India in a few years to take up teaching of small children.
>ARE YOU AN INSIDER?
If you consider yourself an expert on a city or country, be it Chicago or Cairo, and want to be featured in a future Travel Insider, please contact Bee features editor Tamma Adamek, (916) 321-1019 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "Report Abuse" link below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. ( See our full terms of service here. )
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at email@example.com . Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.