Colours are inescapably India to me

Updated: Sep 30 2007, 05:47am hrs
She is an India veteran. Maggie White, general manager, South and S E Asia and Gulf countries, Tourism Australia, has been coming to India regularly for the past 26 years. In fact, in the past few years, she has been visiting India four times a year, so the country is familiar territory for her.

No country is about the place, says White. It is about the people. Wherever you go, it is the interactions with people that one carries back. The personal point of view is all that matters. People here are so warm that one cant help but feel safe and at home.

An avid traveller, White has seen Europe on foot while in college. India holds great promise as a travel destination. Each state has myriad things to offer. One can come here again and again and still find there is a lot more to discover. Palaces, forts, temples, monuments there is so much history here. It is a travellers delight. White, who has been working in the South and South East Asia region for seven years now, says, I have seen India change over the years and it is admirable.

The tourism official is enthusiastic talking about her native Australia. Youd be surprised seeing the number of Indians settled in Australia. There is so much Australia can offer to a tourist. We have World Heritage spots like the Great Barrier Reef. Theme parks are very popular with Indians who visit Australia and then there is the hot-air balloon experience, sailing, horseback riding, sand dunes what more could any tourist ask for Like India, Australia too requires a number of trips before one can cover it fully.

White touched based in India at Delhi and like most foreigners, it was the crowds that held her attention. There is a high concentration of people in India. Coming as I do from Australia, which is sparsely populated, the huge crowds at the airport and outside was riveting. White says the crowd was not a put off but rather an indication of the country. One must learn to go with the flow in whichever country one is in, she reasons.

Though people in India are warm, White says sherealised in her business travels that for most people here, time is a difficult concept. That has taught her not to plan anything, be it even a business meeting. The word time has a different meaning here. When I am scheduled to meet someone at an appointed time, I have over the years learnt to factor in at least half an hour more into the appointed hour! No, she is not complaining. Instead, she says, the time factor has shown her that she has enormous reserves of patience. I would not have known it if it wasnt for the fact that my meetings are always rescheduled, she says in a laughter-laced voice.

Infrastructure can do with some improvement here, she says. Infrastructure is crucial to any country. I look at the way China is going about building it. It is investing huge amounts of money on infrastructure. I am sure India will catch up soon too.

In love with India its land, its people, the food White can go on and on about the country. Nothing poses a problem. The oft-complained spicy food is also not an issue. White says her palate was exposed to Indian food back at home in Australia. I have always liked the spicy element in the cuisine and would eat Indian food twice a week. Coming to India has now exposed me to the variety of cuisines available here. Now I know there is more to Indian cuisine than what I had bi-weekly in Australia!

And she loves Indias colours too. Be it on the indigenous crafts, designs on textiles, or even on salwar kameezes. I am a colour person and it is very interesting to see the varied colours and interesting jewellery spread across the country. Colour is inescapably India to me.

Sulekha Nair