India is a country of great diversity. It has a rich cultural heritage, and nature is mast beautiful in several parts of country. For example, there are engravings like those of Ajanta and Ellora, there are splendid temples in Hardwar, in Mathura and the south. Nature is at her best and most beautiful in Kashmir, Simla and many other places. There are sea-beaches as those of Goa. There are handicrafts of different states, handicrafts which are a sight to see. There is also modern India of dams-some of which are the largest in Asia,-and huge industrial complexes. All this makes India a place of attraction for tourists and thousands of foreign tourists flock to the country every year. They write from India to their friends at home and tell them of the scenes and sights they see and of their experiences in general. During their stay in India, they establish contacts with people, here and there, and write to them on their return home.
This year I had occasion to meet and talk to one such foreign tourist. I was travelling from Delhi to Mumbai by air, and he was also in the same plane, and his seat was next to mine. He was an American, and so he talked with me freely and frankly about his experiences in the country. He had already toured the worth-seeing places. Now he intended to visit Goa, and then leave for his own country.
He was all praises for the natural beauty of Kashmir. He had stayed there for a week and had visited Gulmurg also. He admired the natural beauty, as well as the skating which he had at Gulmurg. It was all covered with snow; there were the snowcapped mountains at a distant, and fire-red blazing fruit trees and flowering plants all around. He was thrilled, for he had never seen such natural beauty ever before. It was a riot of color, and he told me that such colorful beauty could not be enjoyed anywhere else. He had also visited Simla and Kulu and was all praises for the natural beauty of these places. He had also toured Rajasthan, a state rich in historic associations and studded with palaces and forts constructed by the Raj put rajas of by-gone ages. He praised very highly Nathdwara Temple, Udaipur, and Chittor with its remarkable fort associated with the name of Maharana Pratap Singh. He was fascinated by the Taj Mahal, so poetic and romantic when seen by the moonlight.
He had visited Bhakra-Nagla also and described its dam as biggest dam of the world. He called it a Triuph of modern science and technology as well as a tribute to the vision and wisdom of Pandit Nehru. He had visited a number of industrial complexes of modern India, including the Haldia fertilizer complex, the Durgapur and Bhilai steel works. He was much impressed by these gigantic industrial Concerns and predicted that India would soon emerge as one of the leading industrial nations of the world. His impression was that India was on the March, and with all its natural and human resources it would be a rich, prosperous and powerful nation at no distant date.
He also visited the various centers of pilgrimage in India such as Haridwar, Varanasi, Mathura, and many others in the south. He praised highly such Temples, as the Temple of Bharat Mata and the glass temple of Haridwar and the Basanti Temple of Mathura, and the temples of Rameshwaram and Tirupati. The temples delighted him and he was keen to visit India again to study them in some detail. But he was critical of the holy-places of India. They were so dirty, the water was polluted, and there were flies and mosquitoes everywhere. The food sold in the market was exposed and contaminated. The holy Ganga, too, was polluted and could not be regarded as holy or even pure. He was also appalled by the number of beggars that haunted every center of pilgrimage. There were the saffron clothed Sadhus, able-bodied and healthy beggared in Tatters, Beggars who seemed to be cripples and lepers and other suffering from infectious diseases. These Beggars mobbed the pilgrims, tried to snatch clothes or food which was brought by the charitable for distribution among them and sometimes went to the extent of picking of the pockets of the devout. He himself was mobbed in this way. He shuddered as he narrated this particular experience. He was very right in his suggestion that this evil should be strictly handled and tourists and pilgrims must be protected from such aggressive beggars.
In this way, he talked on and I enjoyed the narration of the American’s experiences. When the plane landed in Mumbai, it seemed to me that we had reached there within minutes. So interesting it was to talk to this tourist from America.