India Travelogue

A Kaleidoscope of Colors

India – The land of contradictions, adventures, riddles, cultures, and festivals!  

India has an incredible past and a rich history of culture starting with its earliest civilizations dating back to the 5th century BC in the Indus Valley and Harappan settlements. Today’s India is bustling and full of vibrant cities that make it a wonderful place to experience – as both an Indian as well as a first-time traveler to this distant and exotic land.  

To understand what India is today, one must know its unique history and heritage and the influence of its occupation from the Mughals in the 10th century to the British Raj in the 1700s... Through the centuries the sub-continent has been occupied by great ruling dynasties across the North, South, East, and West, each region rich with its own distinctive culture, food, festivals, customs, and languages. India, the modern country, is really made up of many small independent kingdoms of the past, and this coming together of the nation is not too dissimilar to the history of Italy. In fact, there is a part of India that was once called “Saurashtra” – the region of 100 kingdoms! Being of Indian descent and proud of this, I am delighted to share a few of the unique things that make up modern India.  

Of course, I cannot even attempt to give you more than a fleeting taste of what India is and the influences that have made it so rich and diverse today – notwithstanding some of the more recent expressions of intolerance. Since the 5th century BC and now, much has happened in the intervening years in the Indian subcontinent, from having an ancient civilization with developed buildings, trade and roadways, and a strong understanding of science to a country now full of superstitions, prejudices and yet full of gaiety, color, charm, and hospitality – making this a diverse mosaic of cultures, rituals, and beliefs. I have had the opportunity to experience India as a native, a visitor, and a traveler. I have traveled from the plains in the south to the Himalayas in the North, from the watery delta region of the Sundarbans and Calcutta to the valley of the flowers in Jammu and Kashmir. I have traveled by rail, plane, automobile, and even on camelback and bullock cart! I have met and shared meals with all kinds of people during these travels – locals and visitors alike. It has been a blessing and a unique way to get to know the people and the land. I am full of wonderment.

India is a must on one’s bucket list, some experience this early in their lives, others leave it to later when they feel they might gain some spiritual awakening – regardless, a visit can be life-changing. I have friends who during their college years traveled by road from London to India; if you think it is full of peril now, you can just imagine what it would have been like in the late 70s and 80s. Of course, on arriving in Delhi they camped out for a few months visiting all the surrounding Mughal cities and historical places before gaining the courage to venture further. Another set of friends, who now live in Toronto, made their way to India and joined a famous ashram, and in a wink 7 years went by! Their stories and experiences could fill a volume or two!  

I first really saw India when I returned in my teens from living 5 years on the island of Mauritius … it was eye-popping and made me a tourist in my country. My return gave me a new perspective which made me marvel at all the things that people around me took for granted. I remember thinking - Incredible India! Wow! On arrival, I took a three-month trip to reacquaint myself and catch up with friends and family. I got to visit my ancestral home, tea plantations in the north, and travel extensively in western and northern India. I got to go to Bodh Gaya – the place Buddha is said to have attained nirvana, visit the holy city of Banaras, and the old Muslim University in Aligarh, and then on to Dharmsala to visit the earthly abode of the Dalai Lama! I then stopped at the amazing Mughal Gardens in Pinjore on my way back to Delhi to visit the Old Fort, the Jama Masjid, The Lodi Gardens, The Red Fort, and the famous Qutub Minar.

India is a great place to visit as a destination, with a passion to want to experience it all. It’s a great place for wildlife sightseeing – from wild tigers in the Corbett Reserve to elephants, rhinos, and leopards in the Kaziranga Sanctuary to name just two. India is terrific for visiting ancient sites – from the Taj to the University of Nalanda (ruins) and hundreds of other impressive monuments and architectural wonders built over the centuries. India is great for a city visit as well – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata all offer diverse and uniquely different cultural perspectives. India is a fun place to shop and marvel at all the artisanal work – from colorful textiles, hand-knotted rugs, carved statutes, and unique handmade furniture to cottage industry crafts. A selection guaranteed to surprise at every turn!

A visit to the many small markets in Delhi will leave you mesmerized with all the shiny objects – from silverware to hand-carved wooden and marble sculptures, hand-embroidered pillowcases, and small storage and vanity boxes with hand-painted vignettes. Take a trip to Rajasthan and visit one of the biggest cattle and village fairs – the Kumbh Mela. One might even be tempted to buy a camel or two! Or perhaps the odd elephant! The colors, smells, and spices will dazzle the senses.  

But perhaps this is too exotic and out of one’s comfort zone ….. In that case, a leisurely stroll down Janpath in Delhi visiting the Sate Emporiums shopping for little curios, rugs, linens, or Mughal miniature paintings may well be a wise choice. Visit one of the many antiquities shops and you will be tempted to buy a container load of items and ship them home (I came very close to this, at least on two occasions). I have personally picked a small collection to bring back to share with you, featured in our Rare Birds selection. 

Or perhaps something a little more sedate – maybe a trip to one of the Palace Hotels in Rajasthan or even a trip to a bird sanctuary at Badhkal Lake! There is not much that can be said that has not been said already of India, and quite honestly my version of India is as personal to me as your travels and experiences of India would be to you. I have visited the Taj in Agra many times and continue to marvel at it every time I am there – there is nothing as majestic, well-architected, and imposing as the façade of the Taj through the gates. It always leaves me speechless. Up close the inlay work on the walls has inspired our collection of one-of-a-kind custom-made bone inlay furniture, each detailed by hand by an artisan following this centuries-old tradition and part of a generation of artisans before him.

Check out our Bone Inlay and Mother of Pearl selection here.

If you go east and visit the tea plantations and the clubs that dot these fertile growing areas like Darjeeling, Assam, or the Dooars, you will find both rest and relaxation at many a Planter’s Clubs – a hidden oasis in these parts. These outposts of decorum, and a leftover from the Raj, have been our inspiration for our collection of furniture like the Tea Planter’s Study Chair, The Burma Club Settee, The Tea Planter’s Bar, and the Halle Cane Back Chair – to mention just a few. 

And as the famous bard wrote, “if music be the food of ….” then certainly India is rich with love as there are some wonderful genres of music to listen to – melodies from the sitar and the shehnai will fill your ears with pleasure and delight your senses. Music in India is as integral as the richness and variety of foods you can experience when you travel there. I would be remiss if I were not to say that the flavors and tastes of the food that India has to offer are simply sensational. From frontier delicacies from northern India like Kebabs, Tandoori, and Butter Chicken to a vast and unending selection of vegetarian options around the country there are endless choices. The coastal areas are famous for their fish dishes, and there is a variety of other cuisines to enjoy – influenced by the Mughals, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British. A foodie trip to India is an unrivaled gastronomic experience and will leave you longing for more. As long as you don’t succumb to a case of “Delhi-Belly”!!

I wish I could take you, our dear reader and customer, on a journey to India to share with you the many stories and treasures that make this a land of mystique, color, charm, and unequaled hospitality. I am working with our team on a very special collection for later this year … and hopefully, at that time there will be a surprise opportunity for a few to experience a journey of a lifetime! Stay tuned.