I have visited India several times, as part of a business trip or as part of travel. I have experienced India as an Israeli in India, both in the business and tourism aspects.
Many years before I first came to India, I met many Indians in different circumstances. The first time I met Indians was in my work as an Engineer in the semiconductor industry. I worked at an international company, one of the world’s largest equipment manufacturers for this industry.
As part of my work, I spent a year and a half in Taiwan, and after returning to Israel, I continued flying to East Asian countries.
The company needed more engineers to support its customers, mainly in Taiwan, and therefore recruited more engineers from a recruitment center in India. Indian engineers, as opposed to Israelis, were willing to spend months on customer sites without going home.
Naturally, my first meetings with Indians were meetings with people from my work, engineers, and managers, and some of them very senior. My personal acquaintance was with the engineers. I did not know the senior managers personally, but the impression was that they were similar to American managers. It was an indirect and superficial impression.
After that, I lived for a while in Thailand for business, and then I met Indians who had business in Thailand, mainly restaurants. Some of them had their restaurant nearby, so a friendship was formed.
Also, I lived in California for a few months, where I met other Indians from the semiconductor industry and doctors at one of the hospitals in the bay area.
After years of meetings with Indians, I visited India for the first time in Mumbai for business purposes. After that, I had a few more business trips and then a big trip to Himachal Pradesh with my family.
I think I have an excellent perspective to answer the question: What is India and Indians’ general perception before and after people visit India?
It is clear that my perspective is that of an Israeli in India, and there are undoubtedly countless other perspectives. A great deal will depend on the eye of the beholder and his personal experience.
Before visiting India
Many years ago, when I was a child, there were very few programs and movies on television, but there was one series which I remember well, “Elephant Boy.” I was thrilled by Tumai, the Elephant Boy, who rode an Elephant and helped everyone in the village. Another well-remembered series was “Around the world in 80 days”.
These are my visual “memories” from India, so to me, India was a very distant country, closed to Israelis, hostile, very mysterious, with elephants, skinny people, very colorful, with a lot of rural areas and Krishna, Krishna from the Hippies who used to sing Hari Rama. This collection of associations created a mysterious and romantic image of India.
Over the years, I accumulated more and more knowledge, India was opening, and there were meetings with Indians. India has almost 1.3 billion people, and I met a few of them. Of course, my impression is very subjective, but it is also very consistent. The same impression did not change when I met with other Indians.
The people in India
The people I met were always very gentle, decent, and friendly. The engineers were industrious, they always did the work, and they could be trusted. I really enjoy working with Indians, to this very day, when it happens.
Indian engineers were less spoiled than Israelis and were willing to spend more time on client sites, which gave them an edge and was a good reason to recruit Indian engineers.
This advantage was balanced by something else. Among the Israelis, it was known that once an Indian engineer was married, it is very likely for him not to return from the wedding.
There were very few Indian restaurants in Israel, and for some reason, there are still only a few today. I was introduced to Indian food, mainly when I started to travel to East Asia.
It was love at first taste. Indian food was my favorite food. It’s very nutritious and hot and spicy as I like.
Indian cuisine is one of the most delicious and nutritious cuisines in the world. Small portions can be completely satisfying. One of the special things about Indian cuisine is that it is vegan and vegetarian in the first place, without converting foods to veganism.
For vegans and vegetarians, this is a culinary paradise. There are countless dishes, but my favorite dishes are dal baht, chana masala, palak paneer, samosa, and all sorts of fried vegetable patties and especially delicious pitas.
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History and culture
Unfortunately, I knew only the history and culture of the Christian countries in the West and, of course, my own people and country’s history. I had almost no knowledge of the history and cultures of East Asia, including that of India.
India as a tourist destination
India was not the first choice for me or even a second. It was just a natural result of being unfamiliar with India. And since I did not know, I also did not have specific plans to visit India. In the 1990s, when India began to open up to the world and also allowed Israelis to enter, India became an attractive tourist destination for Israelis looking for something else.
After the visit to India
The people in India
Has anything changed compared to the initial impression? Well, India strikes you. The number of people, the smells, the colors, the size of the towns, the slums, and people living in the streets alongside people with great wealth.
Those who arrive with a narrow, critical, and arrogant mindset will not feel India’s heart or any other place they are visiting. The power of India won’t influence them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should become Hindu but definitely have a deeper understanding of India.
The worship of the gods can also be seen as something that incites internal resistance for someone who grew up in a monotheistic religion, even if he is not religious.
The way to enjoy India is through a kind of personal cleanliness. You have to shed your critical, cynical, and arrogant nature and be completely open, ready to absorb, see, and learn. This is really the only way to enjoy India.
And that’s also what’s beautiful about visiting India. As if India demands that you change to be able to contain it.
I believe that this is how I came to India. I was open to see, listen, and absorb, and I think that’s also why my impression of India has not changed after the visit. The opposite.
I know people who visited India once who say, “I’m not going to India anymore” or “I’m not coming back to India anymore.”
I am. I think they’re losing something huge.
I will return to India. There is so much to see and learn.
So was the impression changed after the visit to India?
Yes, of course. I want to go back there. We want to be in India again. I want to see more Indian areas, learn more about its culture, and enjoy the people, the landscape, and the food.
Of course, on a visit to India, I was exposed to a lot of people in hotels, in the streets, in restaurants, and at work.
The experience is always good with very nice people who want to help you, who are happy to see you as a tourist visiting India and smile at you.
It was a great experience that left a good taste and a desire to return to revisit India.
This, of course, only got better 🙂 In India, I could eat Indian food without a break. Here, too, nothing in my impression before or after the visit to India has changed. I loved street food before, and when I was in India, I loved it even more.
I also became much more aware of indigestion dangers that could ruin an entire trip to India. No matter what the culinary temptation was, I was careful to follow the rules I set for myself.
The markets in India and the street food are amazing, but those whose belly is not used to Indian food from an early age are not advised to take risks.
History and culture
It was a massive change for me. The visit to India prompted me to read, study, and dive into India’s history and culture. I have been exposed to India’s long history, the various gods, Hindu mythology and literature, the philosophy underlying faith in so many gods, and many more aspects of India.
India as a tourist destination
In recent years I have been very busy with East Asian cultures and India is one of the pillars of East Asian cultures. I have no doubt that I will come back to India many more times to deepen my acquaintance with Indians and Indian culture.