I have a confession – I am a travel itinerary geek. As I specialise in India travel and African safaris, I read a lot of itineraries and to put it bluntly…. some of them just leave me a little underwhelmed.
“Travellers are on a journey of discovery, not a journey of exhaustion.”
With India in particular, I find people are trying to either pack too much in – not taking in consideration that the travellers are on a journey of discovery, not a journey of exhaustion.
Also, they are often monument/architecture/temple heavy which at first glance is understandable; however, they ignore the very things that make India so special – the nooks and crannies, layers of historical complexity, people’s hospitality and the creativity of young India.
We are not going to skip the Taj Mahal but too many itineraries are a little heavy handed with the monuments, architecture and temples of India at the expense offering engaging insights into this wonderful yet complex destination.
India: Fabric, Food and Fabulous started off a seed of thought on my last trip to India. However at the time I was pregnant with my daughter, so the idea for this India women only tour was put on a slow burn. I knew that I wanted to personally lead it and there was no way that I could or would leave a wee baby at home. Caitlin also put her own brakes on things as she refused a bottle and was my constant companion until she moved on to a ‘big girl’s cup at 13 months old.
I kept working away at my dream itinerary.
Once I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do, I had a chat to my India based friend Kuntil Baruwa and invited him to collaborate on the project. Kuntil has the amazing job of working in the “Destination Knowledge Centre” of one of India’s most respected tour operators. Part of me is envious of his job – he travels all over India exploring those nooks and crannies, finding authentic and often one in a life time experiences that are the foundation of a well-crafted itinerary.
I love Kuntil, and his no B.S. approach is always appreciated – he’s honest about any pitfalls, will champion what is truly worthwhile and if something is rubbish, he’ll be straight up about it. This is a godsend when Indian cultural norms of not offending sometimes clash with the ability to say a straight up ‘NO.’
Kuntil got on board with what I was planning straight away and was genuinely excited by the whole concept. Together we set about knitting together what has become India: Fabric Food and Fabulous.
So what was the idea? It was all about an India Women Only tour that:
- Offered a more in depth, well rounded experience for a first time woman traveller to India.
- Respects the time constraints of women who may have many different commitments ranging from work to children, grandchildren or roles within their wider community.
- Had a heart of food. We don’t taste the diversity of Indian Cuisine in the West, especially in New Zealand and food is such a central part of Indian culture and hospitality.
- Showcases Delhi, because Delhi gets a rough deal, often relegated to arrival/departure city only. A token tour to Old Delhi and a ‘drive through’ Lutyens Delhi might get a look in – but what about historic Hauz Khas village? The street art of Shahpur Jat? And the vibe the young creative Delhi that has taken a firm hold in the city.
- Doesn’t ignore the must-see sights. Not visiting the Taj would be a crime when we are so close. Even it is not your first visit it never fails to take your breath away.
- In Jaipur visited the magnificent Amber Fort, explored the old town and offered lunch at a special spot such as Samode Haveli, but also provides a hands-on experience of one of Jaipur’s beautiful arts and crafts – hence the trip to Bagru to create our own block print fabric and appreciate the craftsmanship and skills of Indian artisans.
- Includes Mumbai the ‘City of Dreams’ and not surprisingly the home of Bollywood. Again we tick off those must see sights, but Mumbai like Delhi is foodie heaven!
- It had to be fun! Everyone can laugh at themselves and each other as we try out our Bollywood Dancing skills, we get the opportunity to help shop, prepare and cook and traditional Rajasthani meal. And we enjoy some genuine Indian home hospitality and humour.
- There needed to be an experience that supported and celebrated traditional culture. India isn’t homogeneous, the culture and languages of its peoples are as diverse as its landscapes. By taking part in an Warli Art Workshop we will be directly helping preserve this endangered tribal art form but increasing its viability and supporting its artists.
And most of all I wanted for a small group of ladies to travel like friends.
In 2016 our group got to attend the Durga Puja Festivities in Chittaranjan Park in Delhi. It is the biggest festival of the year in Kolkata, West Bengal but with Chittaranjan known as ‘Little Bengal’ it is home to a sizeable celebration of the Mother Goddess – Durga and here victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura.
In 2017 we will be in Jaipur for Diwali. Our 2016 group LOVED our stay at Dera Mandawa and this year we are able to join Durga & Usha Singh and family for their Diwali Celebrations. Think lots of lights and fireworks, a Puja to the Goddess of Wealth Laxmi, lip-smacking delicious Diwali foods and a bit of Rajasthani folk music.
So that is the story behind India: Fabric, Food & Fabulous.
Does it sound like you?
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