From: V. V. Narayanan
Date: 8 Feb 2007 07:23:29 -0000
Subject: To: mailto:email@example.com
How did you miss to circulate this piece!
Incredible India - todays arab news - by editor
ARABNEWS - 03-02-2007
India, I Salute Thee
Tariq A. Al-Maeena, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the Haj holidays, I surprised my kids with an announcement that I would be taking them to India for a short holiday. My distinct memories from having visited the country with my parents when I was a child had left me with impressions of cultures and civilizations that one reads in history books. And then there was the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
And wanting to repeat that experience for my children, I decided to give them a taste of India by planning our trip to encompass different regions of the country - Chennai in the south, Delhi and Agra somewhere in the central, and Mumbai in the western part of the Indian Subcontinent. In the days preceding our trip, friends and acquaintances of both my children and myself were somewhat alarmed and bemused and quizzed us with the same question: "But why India?" And why not, I would ask them. Their answers were somewhat patronizing and sympathetic. India, they would say, is dirty, crowded, and backward and we'd be sure to catch one of many diseases.
I would be exposing my children to viruses and bacteria of gargantuan proportions. Malaria, diarrhea, cholera and the plague were commonplace, and were I that insensitive or naïve to expose my children to such deadly threats, all for the sake of seeing some old monuments?
I would patiently explain to these naysayers that I wanted my children to see India firsthand, and not to take in the impression that unfortunately a lot of us Saudis and others have of that country. And I wanted to expose them to a diverse culture that they had not experienced before. And I thanked them for our health concerns, but assured them that we would be taking all necessary precautions.
But their concerns began to create some unsettling feelings within myself. Was I being rash expecting to get through India without some debilitating medical condition?
And what about my children? Was I foolishly exposing them to transmissible diseases and possible harm? With a population of over a billion people, was I being immature in not giving worth to my friends' concerns?
I was adamant on this adventure though, but to be on the safe side I must confess that I did call upon the Indian Consulate in Jeddah and inquired about any specific medical precautions that we would have to take. "Drink only bottled water, and eat only in the hotels you would be staying in" was their soothing reply.
Armed with that knowledge, we began our trip. But to be on the safe side, we popped in malaria pills as an added precaution. As we spun through Chennai, Delhi, Agra and Mumbai, my kids were amazed. And they loved it. The hustle and bustle of Chennai with its serene shorelines dotted with resorts and retreats offering world-class service, the grandeur of the Presidential Palace in Delhi, the beauty of Marine Drive in Mumbai, topped with our visit to the majestic Taj Mahal had my children chirping in unison that it was the trip of a lifetime.
The preservation of historic monuments, unlike our own, were some of the things they marveled at.
And from our observations, we were pleasantly surprised to find parts of India cleaner than our own city. Their roads, although crowded, were not run down as ours, and the Indians seemed more prosperous than imagined.
In a conversation with the vice president of marketing in the chain of hotels we were staying at, I remarked that I was amazed that five star hotels, once known to be the haven for only Westerners and rich Gulf tourists were primarily being occupied by Indians today.
"Yes, my friend," was her reply. "India today is booming in heavy industry and technology. IT, pharmaceuticals, steel and medicine are the backbone of our economy. Education is a top priority and some of our universities are among the leading ones in the world. People are more affluent and spend freely. Over thirty percent of our population is now middle class..."
"Thirty percent, that's good," I interrupted.
"Yes, my friend, that translates to over 300 million", she said with a bemused look at me as the force of that staggering number dawned on me. Three hundred million! And here we are, not even twenty million Saudis, and many not anywhere near middle-class.
What right do we have to thumb up our noses on India, a country on the move upward? Yes, we drank only bottled water, but also ate in local restaurants. We witnessed wealth and we saw poverty. We learned about their great history and we observed massive new projects in the works, designed to make life easier on the Indian.
In spite of their diverse cultures and religions, India is tolerant and moving forward, and not bogged down by what we witness here...intolerance and rigidity on the part of a few who seek to impose their views on the rest of us.
Indeed, India...I have to salute thee. And thanks for making my children's' visit a memorable one.