"India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only." - Mark Twain, American Author.
India is a rich country - Rich in culture, traditions and diversity. However, when it comes to comfort for the Westerner, it could pose some serious challenges. Some are inevitable because of the cultural differences, but some others could be avoided by some careful planning and proper execution. Following are some tips if you are planning to visit this beautiful country with your friends or family :
1. No PDA (Public Display of Affection): This is a very important point that every visitor must know about when he/she's planning to pay the country a visit. This point is of importance reminding you since kissing is very common in the west & there are no restrictions at public places but unfortunately, this is not ignorable in India. Kissing or other forms of PDA are still a taboo in India. Even our movies are very low on it & sexual content. It's considered immoral and against the Indian culture.
If you are found showing affection on the streets and someone with a traditional mindset finds the entire act objectionable could file a complaint to the Police under Section 294 (a) of the Indian Penal Code which may invite some trouble. Punishment could range from a fine to imprisonment up to 3 months. What's strange and even a little amusing is that even married couples could be charged under this section of the IPC. So couples, please find a room.
2. Dress Properly : Give this point great importance especially if you are a female. I know dressing is something that every person should have the freedom to decide upon, but still there's no harm in trying to emulate the following of any country you pay a visit. As a quick, general advice, in India you should wear full clothes with minimum skin show.
No, there's not really much of an issue with miniskirts or something, especially in the urban areas, but that won't always be a case when you pay a visit to some village. Especially, fair-skinned women will attract a lot more eyeballs.
Call it backward or a patriarchal mindset, it's still prevalent among a large section of the Indian men that you need to face constantly during your stay. Also, there have been a few cases where rapists have confessed of rape & citing the reason of being attracted to the victim's clothes. I am not saying that the victim's wrong in this case but if any mishap occurs, the victim suffers the most, not only rape but eve teasing as well, which is quite common. Also, I don't think you women would like men following you or ogling you wherever you go.
The best way - both for men and women would be to simulate your surroundings, if your grooming is type-casted as 'weird' in your own country. No harm in going a bit traditional.
3. Beware of Crooks! : No matter how much you'll be impressed and find a lot of welcoming people, your experience with cheats could spoil the entire experience anywhere. Especially, here right from the moment you exit the airport, you'll find taxi drivers lined up, and if it's clear that you are 'different' from the Indian population, they'll start quarreling among themselves. Nobody wants to miss duping someone ignorant about the charges, right?
The next hurdle would be the shopkeepers when you flock around the markets to buy some Indian stuff. Initially, they overcharge anyone with their rates especially in street markets and bargaining is the only way out. With a lack of idea about the rates, they'll dupe you very easily even when they make you believe they've given you the best discount possible.
Speaking from my personal experience, there are markets in my city where the quote the price of an item at 10 times the original price. And yeah, since the dresses, bags, shoes etc are domestically produced, there's no price tag as such there. Do some research through the internet about the city you're visiting. The Best way out would be to buy from the bigger players & the Multinationals available anywhere if you don't want to feel 'fooled'. So do take care and try to rope in an Indian pen friend or someone trustworthy for some much required guidance.
In spite of some problems and possible challenges, I assure you India has a lot of lovely & welcoming people. It is a very special country with incredible diversity. I hope you all experience this nation at least once in your lifetime. For those visiting soon, wishing you a safe journey & a very fulfilling time. Awaiting your opinion..