I am Hampi. I am Hardiwar. I am Hastinapur. I am Hawa Mahal. I am the Harmandir Sahib. I am the Sanchi Stupas, I am the Sun Temple of Konarak.
I am the Virupaksha Temple. I am Varanasi. I am Vrindavan. I am much more than just the Taj Mahal. I’m mystified. That in every ‘100 Places To See Before You Die’ compilation it’s always Agra’s Taj Mahal that’s the token Indian entry. Why is it that it’s only Shah Jahan’s tribute to Mumtaz Mahal that makes the list?
Illustration / Amit Bandre
So it’s made of marble, it has minarets and is magnificent. (If you look past the ‘Seema loves Raju’ inscribed on its walls) But I am so much more. India is so much more.
I have hundreds of Angkor Wats in my land. I have 50 Alhambras in Rajasthan alone. I have rock formations far more imposing than Stonehenge.
So why am I not the destination of choice? Why won’t you brave my heat and experience my hospitality? Sure I have mosquitoes and malaria and men who stare.
But I am weather beaten and war survived. Come absorb my destruction and desecration and deep-rooted civilisation.
I am the ultimate destination.
I am Mother India. With a 5,000-year-old history. Not Manhattan with 200 years.
I am several empires in one. Not one Empire State Building.
I am India. I am the Indo Gangetic Plain. I am Aryan. I am Dravidian.
I have temples. I have treasures. I have tradition.
I have survived tyranny, terror and termites.
I have forts. I have forests. I have Fatehpur Sikri.
I am Vijaynagar. I am Vikramaditya. I am the Upanishads. I am Yamuna. I am Yudhisthira. I am the Yajur Veda.
So why do you go to Phuket? And Koh Samui? And Disneyland?
You hot-air balloon over Cappadocia, travel through the Caribbean, post photos of Colombia on Facebook, schedule Central America, and plan for China.
Why do you waste your rupee on impossible exchange rates?
Ephesus awaits you, the Eiffel Tower has bewitched you, Mona Lisa is finally a tiny unimpressive poster, Machu Pichu and the Inca dynasty are inked in your travel book.
Your eyes are peeled at the Nat Geo channel.
Your inner Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus take you beyond our seas.
Your collection of yellow-bordered National Geographics, bought second hand from Flora Fountain footpaths, lie on your bookshelf with post-its tagging every land except India.
You rummage through your Rough Guides, and leaf through your Lonely Planets.
Why do you not consider me when you plan your holiday?
I agree that we don’t make it easy for you.
Our tourism ministry is ineffectual. Touts annoy you, tour guides are parasitic, and our many tourism offices resemble modern-day Harappa.
But I am India. Poor in currency but rich in culture. I am a fragile economy but a fiercely resilient civilisation.
I may be difficult to get to or around but I am easy to understand.
Inhabit India. I am worth it.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.