I got many replies from Indians and Indian Americans on the column I wrote about travel as a tourist in India, some of them quite heated. Here was one of the calmer ones:
This was an interesting article. Made me realize how different the experience of a foreign tourist is compared to an Indian tourist in India. It seems you had a miserable time in India and as an Indian I do apologize for it. I really hope we learn to treat the tourist well if we want to be a successful tourist destination. But I do have to point out a few things which make this article seem biased.
1)The fact that India sells more Coke and Pepsi does not signify progress. It just means our children our adopting the bad habits of the western world and
become obese too. We need better roads, more industry and better infrastructure to really claim we are progressing. Western products that really make a difference in our country are the mobile phones, computers, planes, etc. Not Coke and Pespi!!!
2)Recommendations of Mohandas Gandhi got us freedom from the white colonialist rule. So I would think twice before disparaging his views. His views were right for his times. The problems were caused by the politicians who did not want to bring about change in the later years.
3)It would really help if Americans did think about India and Pakistan. Coz then they will realize that their president who seems to support democracy has
been entertaining a dictator who came to power through a coup at his beloved Texas Ranch. This same dictator was involved in supporting Taliban, supporting the scientist who leaked nuclear secrets to North Korea, supporting terrorist in Kashmir and refuses to hold democratic elections in his country.
Thanks for your note. Actually, I did not have a terrible time in India. I expected the hassle, because I remembered it from before. It was a kind of a game, except that my money was at stake. Except for the $320, it was mostly small amounts at stake. But I found the mental struggle with the tourism industry people interesting, and frustrating, and I wrote about it. That's all: I wrote about that aspect critically. It doesn't mean that overall I had a bad time. India was exciting, colorful, different. I liked the food and the chai. The people who were not trying to make money off me were very nice. My son got a huge kick out of riding in autorickshaws. There were many things I liked about India, but I wanted to write about this one thing that was on my mind.
I wrote about Coke and Pepsi because they were everywhere--not just for the elite--and because Americans are familiar with them. Of course Coke and Pepsi are basically sugar water, and not important in themselves. Nineteen years ago, there was Thums Up [a local cola]. India could have survived with Thums Up, which is still there.
About Gandhi. Maybe I was making a leap too far; several Indians have criticized me on it. As I understand it, Gandhi developed his self-sufficiency idea, but as a political strategy against the British, and it was Nehru who changed it into an policy for heavy industry.
On India/Pakistan: The USA has already taken sides with Israel/Palestine. It is bad enough. I don't want to take sides in Kashmir. NO, no, no, no. Let India and Pakistan figure it out.
Respond to Bruce.