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The real, magical India beckons!

Many of the expatriates are willing to revive, reinvent, represent and relive India, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Sep 20, 2005 21:11 IST
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya

Just as summer heat in India drawls onto the more harmonious season of festivities beginning with the Navratra-Durga Puja and culminating in Christmas, Atlanta's Indians are busy planning their vacation back home.

Significantly, the paradigm shift that can be seen here among Indians is their desire to visit India not solely because it is home to family, but also because its reputation as a haven for multi-faceted tourist activities is on the rise.

Not surprisingly, it is their American friends among others who have been favourably impressed by the astounding variety of leisure and tourist diversions that India offers; specifically, Goa— India's primary tourist destination and beach capital, Kerala with its fascinating montage of sand and sea, and Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh with their delectable charm and legendary pug marks of the distant past.

Besides, a slice of any of these great draws is still considerably cheaper than a lot of other global destinations.

Reportedly Rajasthan's share in the national tourism pie has dipped from 48.4 per cent in 1991 to 28.7 per cent in 2004. While Jaipur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer remain fascinating attractions for the foreign traveller keen on revisiting the glorious splendour of the Rajputs replete with the pageantry of resplendent looms and sparkling gems, it is the noveau tourism thrusts, as eco-tourism, wedding tourism, even innovative business tourism that is attracting the Diaspora along with foreigners to Indian shores.

In a small report in Malaysia's leading daily The Sun, an alliance between Air India and Tourism Malaysia to woo wedding parties to Malaysia was dwelt on as an interesting method to attract the Indian traveller. Come to "magical Malaysia" to get hitched, it read in as many words.

India, with its innate sense of contrarieties and diversity can, ironically, live out this promise much more comprehensively.

To a certain extent, this has already begun. Many American Indians are going to India not just to get married to an Indian bride or groom, but to celebrate the union with their family and friends in a minutely etched out 30-day rig beginning with the wedding-that reeks of tradition- and moving onto a full-fledged holiday package with the wedding party in the captivating Kovalam backwaters or the sunny, azure Goa beaches.

A leading national newspaper reported recently that the international arrivals in Kerala have gone up from 69,000 in 1991 to 3,45,546 in 2004. To Atlanta's Indians, this is hardly a surprise- for years now they have recounted tales of the alluring gaiety of Kovalam during the Onam festival season, which has been on in full swing the whole of last week.

This year, some people have taken a trip to the backwaters on dates that coincide with the first international three-day travel film festival of Kerala, 'Journeys'.

This new and progressive focus on eco-tourism is already proving to be a major pull factor for other places like Goa, which hitherto was known as the ultimate oceanic rendezvous to both the domestic and the international traveller. With an annual average growth of over 15 per cent in arrivals, Goa too is more delectable to the NRI because of its emerging focus as a preserver of natural beauty.

While these few states remain the travellers' magnet- it is the inventive packaging that has many NRIs looking homeward for a retreat away from, well home.

What is possibly the most laudable tourist phenomenon that has the Diaspora delighted is the initiative taken by India Tourism to implement a sightseeing project in over 50 villages across the nation to showcase the ebullient, ancient manifestations of our heritage.

Reportedly, with UNDP's assistance each of these villages will be encouraged to improve its infrastructural base with theatres, interpretation centres, and shops selling traditional art forms.

Even as most of us are apt to shoot down any such endeavour as a misnomer and would be prone to think of this as another political gimmick as an idea it has left indelible imprints on the minds of many NRIs who have awakened to such a possibility. Rural tourism, in addition to eco tourism and thematic tourism has, therefore, become a more tangible proposition for Indians here.

With so many Indians in Atlanta alone willing to revive, reinvent, represent and relive India, soon enough we'll be singing magical India, real India.

First Published: Sep 20, 2005 21:11 IST