Inside a country: India

Feb 2014
1,429
Asia
tornada said:
Punjabi by nature is excellent. Particularly their pineapple Raita and Raan (roast goat leg). You could also check out the restaurants at Khan Market and Connaught Place. Gulathis in Pandara market has great indian food of a variety of cuisines. Moti Mahal at Malcha Marg market is ok as well.

Famously non veg though so I'm afraid I can't make any serious recos for vegetarian food.
Thanks :)
 
Aug 2009
5,425
Londinium
Back in February & March I spent 3 weeks in India, I was supposed to have written this some time ago but one thing led to another, new job, work on my flat, various birthdays and the like. Sorry rvsakhadeo, but be careful what you wish for, I hope you’ve got a comfy chair!!

I visited New Delhi, did the golden triangle tour and also went to J&K, staying in Ladakh. As Ladkh/J&K is probably the most un-known, I’d thought I would focus on this part of my holiday and rvsakhadeo also inquired about my time there. I’m happy to discuss the rest of my trip if wanted. I travelled with my older brother, India was his 53rd country and my 16th; we both agreed that India presented the largest culture shock we’d ever experienced.

The purpose of visiting Ladakh was to see a snow leopard; which I did. To enter Ladakh was, for me, like entering another world. Flying over the Himalayas is like looking at pure white blanket laid over massive mountain peaks and valleys, stretching all the way to the horizon; all other mountain ranges I’d flown over or visited had greens and browns and some settlement. There were some lower valleys which had the reddy-brown earth (like a shade off Mars!) but these were only visible on approach to Leh. For most of the flight over J&K, it was nothing but a completely white, vast mountain range – the most beautifully unusual thing I’ve seen out of an aircraft. It looked like CGI.

Landing in Leh airport you quickly see that you’re in an Indian Air Force base, if you like planes then you’d enjoy it here as there’s a shuttle bus to the terminal, during this time you can see the large transport planes take off…one of them even began it’s take-off aligned to the passengers on the runway, leading to small stones and an incredible force being thrown at us while their engines ramped-up. You could lean into the exhaust and not fall over. I should mention that Leh airport is about 10,500 ft high and it was somewhere around -5DegC. They have an oxygen bar in the terminal to help with the instant altitude sickness! Also, the landing approach was quite steep – you don’t really see much out of the window aside from the white ground, then about 10 seconds before you start to descend (quite rapidly I should say!) you see some of those valleys with their red/brown earth. Also the plane was full of pretty much every type of person you can think of; there was a (Shia or Sunni, not sure) Iman, Buddhist monks, parents with kids, a school trip of ~15yo’s, loads of pilgrims from around India….and 2 white boys from London (we were the only non-Indians on the plane). While there was lots of security at the airport, entering Leh was quick – as opposed to leaving/entering the airport which took hours. Leh itself is full of soldiers, there are also a few army and air force bases. The soldiers are walking around (some are armed near the airport, police station etc). Neither my brother or I ever felt intimidated or un-secure in anyway.

We met our guide and went to the hotel. Dumping off our bags we went for a walk around Leh to acclimatise. As we were off season most of the markets were shut. There is a large Tibetan exile community there and they have their own market, selling various crafts and foods, geared towards the summer tourist season. The local market was busy, as was the high street, and it was quite nice to be in a location where there was no other foreigners. After New Dehli, Leh was literally a breath of fresh air!

We visited Leh palace, where some Indian soldiers wanted a selfie with me and we spoke about the UK and New Delhi for a while. Heading back to town we ate some nice Tibetan food, brought some gifts (obviously some Cashmere!) and even had a quick chat with some local teenagers who wanted to practise their English on us, which was far more enjoyable than it sounds.

Small piece of advice, as we were told this prior to our trip, if you’re from outside of India and going to J&K, don’t put this on your visa as it’ll 99% be rejected. Just say you’re visiting ND, Goa or something.

Anyway, enough typing, time for some pics of Leh/Ladakh and the hungry-hungry leopard; India, you need to promote the leopard more. You have a tourism boom just waiting to happen – in the Summer Ladkah is a paradise for hiking and trekking (very alpine-like) and in the winter its perfect for leopards and snow trekking. I understand that even eastern J&K is still under tight security but the locals, the guides, the hotel staff, the airport staff were all very welcoming and extremely friendly.

I’m going to leave out the description of seeing the snow leopard and our camping, it’s long enough already and I want to add in some pictures. More than happy to add to this description with my non-J&K part or anymore information on Leh.

Without wanting to brag, I managed to get some incredible pictures of snow leopards (including it eating) so I'm looking into copyright etc before posting these here. Not even the BBC got to see it eating, and we were only 350m away. I really want to share these as it shows a different side to India, many more animals than elephants, monkeys and tigers!!!


Leh Palace


View from Leh Palace onto the high street


View from the Japanese Stupa, which overlooks the town. You can make out Leh Palace in the bottom centre.


Some info on Leh Palace


View from the top of Leh Palace, looking up the mountain.




Three from the masked dance festival



It is there, in the far off valley. This was taken from the Japanese Stupa.



High altitude valley (~13,200ft)


'Low' altitude valley (still about 10,500 ft!)
 
Last edited:
Jun 2012
1,780
chandigarh
Back in February & March I spent 3 weeks in India, I was supposed to have written this some time ago but one thing led to another, new job, work on my flat, various birthdays and the like. Sorry rvsakhadeo, but be careful what you wish for, I hope you’ve got a comfy chair!!

I visited New Delhi, did the golden triangle tour and also went to J&K, staying in Ladakh. As Ladkh/J&K is probably the most un-known, I’d thought I would focus on this part of my holiday and rvsakhadeo also inquired about my time there. I’m happy to discuss the rest of my trip if wanted. I travelled with my older brother, India was his 53rd country and my 16th; we both agreed that India presented the largest culture shock we’d ever experienced.

The purpose of visiting Ladakh was to see a snow leopard; which I did. To enter Ladakh was, for me, like entering another world. Flying over the Himalayas is like looking at pure white blanket laid over massive mountain peaks and valleys, stretching all the way to the horizon; all other mountain ranges I’d flown over or visited had greens and browns and some settlement. There were some lower valleys which had the reddy-brown earth (like a shade off Mars!) but these were only visible on approach to Leh. For most of the flight over J&K, it was nothing but a completely white, vast mountain range – the most beautifully unusual thing I’ve seen out of an aircraft. It looked like CGI.

Landing in Leh airport you quickly see that you’re in an Indian Air Force base, if you like planes then you’d enjoy it here as there’s a shuttle bus to the terminal, during this time you can see the large transport planes take off…one of them even began it’s take-off aligned to the passengers on the runway, leading to small stones and an incredible force being thrown at us while their engines ramped-up. You could lean into the exhaust and not fall over. I should mention that Leh airport is about 10,500 ft high and it was somewhere around -5DegC. They have an oxygen bar in the terminal to help with the instant altitude sickness! Also, the landing approach was quite steep – you don’t really see much out of the window aside from the white ground, then about 10 seconds before you start to descend (quite rapidly I should say!) you see some of those valleys with their red/brown earth. Also the plane was full of pretty much every type of person you can think of; there was a (Shia or Sunni, not sure) Iman, Buddhist monks, parents with kids, a school trip of ~15yo’s, loads of pilgrims from around India….and 2 white boys from London (we were the only non-Indians on the plane). While there was lots of security at the airport, entering Leh was quick – as opposed to leaving/entering the airport which took hours. Leh itself is full of soldiers, there are also a few army and air force bases. The soldiers are walking around (some are armed near the airport, police station etc). Neither my brother or I ever felt intimidated or un-secure in anyway.

We met our guide and went to the hotel. Dumping off our bags we went for a walk around Leh to acclimatise. As we were off season most of the markets were shut. There is a large Tibetan exile community there and they have their own market, selling various crafts and foods, geared towards the summer tourist season. The local market was busy, as was the high street, and it was quite nice to be in a location where there was no other foreigners. After New Dehli, Leh was literally a breath of fresh air!

We visited Leh palace, where some Indian soldiers wanted a selfie with me and we spoke about the UK and New Delhi for a while. Heading back to town we ate some nice Tibetan food, brought some gifts (obviously some Cashmere!) and even had a quick chat with some local teenagers who wanted to practise their English on us, which was far more enjoyable than it sounds.

Small piece of advice, as we were told this prior to our trip, if you’re from outside of India and going to J&K, don’t put this on your visa as it’ll 99% be rejected. Just say you’re visiting ND, Goa or something.

Anyway, enough typing, time for some pics of Leh/Ladakh and the hungry-hungry leopard; India, you need to promote the leopard more. You have a tourism boom just waiting to happen – in the Summer Ladkah is a paradise for hiking and trekking (very alpine-like) and in the winter its perfect for leopards and snow trekking. I understand that even eastern J&K is still under tight security but the locals, the guides, the hotel staff, the airport staff were all very welcoming and extremely friendly.

I’m going to leave out the description of seeing the snow leopard and our camping, it’s long enough already and I want to add in some pictures. More than happy to add to this description with my non-J&K part or anymore information on Leh.

Without wanting to brag, I managed to get some incredible pictures of snow leopards (including it eating) so I'm looking into copyright etc before posting these here. Not even the BBC got to see it eating, and we were only 350m away. I really want to share these as it shows a different side to India, many more animals than elephants, monkeys and tigers!!!


Leh Palace


View from Leh Palace onto the high street


View from the Japanese Stupa, which overlooks the town. You can make out Leh Palace in the bottom centre.


Some info on Leh Palace


View from the top of Leh Palace, looking up the mountain.




Three from the masked dance festival



It is there, in the far off valley. This was taken from the Japanese Stupa.



High altitude valley (~13,200ft)


'Low' altitude valley (still about 10,500 ft!)
People generally confuse ladakh with kashmir. Ladakh is very pro India and the issues in kashmir are very different from Ladakh. Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir although are the same state but they are very different entities in the view of the people, culture and tradition. Ladakh does have a lot of military presence though, it is primarily due to a percieved threat of invasion from China like in 1962.
 
Aug 2009
5,425
Londinium
People generally confuse ladakh with kashmir. Ladakh is very pro India and the issues in kashmir are very different from Ladakh. Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir although are the same state but they are very different entities in the view of the people, culture and tradition. Ladakh does have a lot of military presence though, it is primarily due to a percieved threat of invasion from China like in 1962.
Yep, I was told that Eastern J&K has a military presence due to China and western is driven by the Pakistan border disputes; of these the west is far more volatile.

While I didn’t hear of any anti-India sentiment, there was an anti-Hindu and Muslims comments. Mostly related to the dietary laws from Hindu’s and Muslims imposed on Ladakh, for example no cows or pork. I only heard this mostly from our guides, but was told that many people don’t like these restrictions. It was also described as a kind-of arms race regarding demographics. Muslims have, by all accounts, been migrating to this area in larger numbers than other groups, plus have very high birth rates. Following this, over the last few years, more Hindus have migrated. My guide and most other, if not all, Ladakhi’s are Buddhist and this is leading to/has led to, some resentment towards the non-Buddhist migrations.

While I knew of the Sino-Indian war, as you say, I thought that all J&K military was geared towards Pakistan rather than split west and east for Pakistan and China.
 
Jun 2012
1,780
chandigarh
Yep, I was told that Eastern J&K has a military presence due to China and western is driven by the Pakistan border disputes; of these the west is far more volatile.

While I didn’t hear of any anti-India sentiment, there was an anti-Hindu and Muslims comments. Mostly related to the dietary laws from Hindu’s and Muslims imposed on Ladakh, for example no cows or pork. I only heard this mostly from our guides, but was told that many people don’t like these restrictions. It was also described as a kind-of arms race regarding demographics. Muslims have, by all accounts, been migrating to this area in larger numbers than other groups, plus have very high birth rates. Following this, over the last few years, more Hindus have migrated. My guide and most other, if not all, Ladakhi’s are Buddhist and this is leading to/has led to, some resentment towards the non-Buddhist migrations.

While I knew of the Sino-Indian war, as you say, I thought that all J&K military was geared towards Pakistan rather than split west and east for Pakistan and China.
I think they want a different state. Personally I think it is a pretty legitimate demand. Jammu and Kashmir make their own laws and are seperate from Indian constitution. I think pork and Beef ban in kashmir is pretty old since times of the british when it was a princely state. I don't think Non-J&K residence can buy and sell land in J&K. I agree the J&K politics are dominated by concerns of kashmir and jammu. Ladakh is mostly overlooked because of this. Personally J&K needs to be broken into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh states. But Indian government ca'nt do that by law , only J&K can enact such laws. Indian government in terms of formulating legislature has no power in J&K. You find anti migration sentiment all over India , for a robust and good economy they need to get over it.
 
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royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,478
San Antonio, Tx
If I understand correctly, India has historically and modernly been the most linguistically diverse country in the world.

These may seem like very naive questions (pardon me, an ignorant American), but what is it like communicating in India? How many languages is the "average" Indian (if there is such a person) fluent in?

Salah, I visited India five or so times during the late sixties and early seventies. The experience was pretty unforgettable. One thing that struck me then was the number of languages on the One Rupee bank note and these were only the most prominent languages spoken in India. Perhaps more tellingly at the time, the banner language on the Rupee note was...English! Imagine, if you will, the country of France using English as the language on its Franc notes...never going to happen.

Now, as we traveled throughout parts of India, the one language we - and many Indians - could use to communicate across the many language groups there was, you guessed it, English. Not that everyone spoke it, but educated Indians did all speak it. Of course the great advantage for educated Indians is that English provides a linguistic entree to a much wider world outside of India.
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,478
San Antonio, Tx
Why English? Is it because it was convenient after the British left to maintain a widely spread common language?

I find it very saddening that there are people abandoning their mother language and culture; I full-heartedly support communication and mutual understanding, but not homogeneity.

What language do the media, films, signs, books use? Is it possible for someone speaking only English to live in India without any difficulties?
My parents lived in Bombay for five years. I can say without reservation that it was very possible to live there speaking only English.
 
Aug 2009
5,425
Londinium
I think they want a different state. Personally I think it is a pretty legitimate demand. Jammu and Kashmir make their own laws and are seperate from Indian constitution. I think pork and Beef ban in kashmir is pretty old since times of the british when it was a princely state. I don't think Non-J&K residence can buy and sell land in J&K. I agree the J&K politics are dominated by concerns of kashmir and jammu. Ladakh is mostly overlooked because of this. Personally J&K needs to be broken into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh states. But Indian government ca'nt do that by law , only J&K can enact such laws. Indian government in terms of formulating legislature has no power in J&K. You find anti migration sentiment all over India , for a robust and good economy they need to get over it.
Interesting post and very appreciated because of it.

Would you say that the internal migration has increased over the last few years, perhaps the last decade? I assume it’s mostly from rural to urban centres as is common throughout the world?
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,478
San Antonio, Tx
Hey Baldtastic, nice to see you back. How did the Australia trip go?

"I have heard various people say that the curries eaten in the UK (and i presume the west in general) aren’t really found in India? I think (I want to stress think) that most ‘English curry’ is from the Midlands and referred to as Balti?"

Most of the dishes found on the Indian menus in Britain trace their origin to India. The good ole chicken curry, for instance, is ubiquitous in India.

For starters, a couple of points.

1) That which the West knows as 'Indian cuisine' actually comes from only one region of India, the Punjab.

One would think the Punjabis would make it the best, but what has happened in Britain, due to a series of happenstances, is that descendants of the seamen from East Bengal (which later on became East Pakistan, and still later Bangladesh) have risen to the forefront of the curry business in the UK. This article gives a rough idea of how this happened: History of Indian Restaurants & Curry Houses

Now these people came from the eastern state of Bengal which is a world apart from the western state of Punjab. Bengal is a coastal area (India has a very long coastline) and seafood is their specialty; Punjab is a landlocked area and poultry and dairy are their specialty. There's no seafood in Punjabi cuisine. These two cuisines are completely different, everything from the method of cooking to the spices used is very different. So the chefs from Bengal could only second guess how the Punjabis cooked their curries, and they cooked a chicken curry the way they would cook a fish or a prawn curry (though the way you handle prawn or pomfret is a lot different from how you handle chicken or lamb). And in the process came up with an approximation of an authentic Punjabi chicken curry. But that's what became popular in the UK and so it has stayed that way. ('Balti' is an Anglo-Pakistani construct: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balti_(food))

Having said that, there's plenty of places in London where one can get very good Indian (read Punjabi) food. The Masala Zone in Angel comes to mind. I guess these establishments are run by Indians. However, if you had to choose between a Pakistani establishment and a Bangladeshi one for Indian food, I would choose the Pakistani place for Punjabi or any North Indian food, and the Bangladeshi one for seafood.

These are just my thoughts, by the way.

2) This is a popular misconception: all Indian food is spicy. Frankly it isn't. There are entire regions in India that don't use any spices at all. But there's no diversity in the Indian food offered in the West so one gets the impression that all of it is super spicy but one couldn't be more wrong.

Overall, some of the Indian food in Britain is quite good, though obviously the closer you get to the source the better a thing gets so the best Indian food will be found only in India. However, Britain does much much better than say America where Indian food is downright crap. And expensive.

That's enough food for thought, I'll leave you now. Ciao! ;)
There are Indian restaurants all over the US even in my city, San Antonio. They are not nearly as popular as Chinese restaurants, or even Thai restaurants for that matter. I think Italian cuisine is probably the second most popular. But the hands-down winner in San Antonio is of course Mexican restaurants which is really a Tex-Mex cuisine unless the owner is from one of the Mexican states and advertises that fact.
 

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