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The Rough Guide to India by David Abram
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Jan 10, 09

Read in January, 2009

My issue with most travel writing is that it’s often too romanticized; a lot of the focus is on grand tourist resorts, buying great souvenirs, and where to dine. Don’t get me wrong. Traveling can be a great experience, but every visiting foreigner will face problems in a new territory. I’ve often come across travel writings in which language, cultural barriers, the way citizens perceive and treat foreigners, and many other essential details are neglected. This is why I was most pleased to find that the research team behind The Rough Guide to India didn’t beat around the bush about the practical, unromantic subjects.

Undoubtedly, the best feature of this guide is that it takes the time to cater to women traveling alone, women with children, gay and lesbian people, and disabled travelers. While having a disability or children are accepted in India, it is slightly more difficult to travel if you fall into some of the other categories. The guide informs women and GLBT-identified individuals how to handle verbal harassment, and provides the contact information of various organizations that one can contact for help should a tourist run into any trouble.

The realities of some issues discussed in this guide were a bit too rough for me to handle. It definitely irks me that many feminist movements in India do not recognize lesbians, and that people in interracial relationships are subjected to much discrimination, especially if the woman is Indian. Rough, right? But a reality nevertheless.

More along the lines of what is expected in a travel guide, this book exceeds 1400 pages with thorough descriptions, beautiful pictures and maps of where to locate particular types of cuisine, etiquette, and architecture in various cities and regions (e.g., Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, The Northeast). Also, in a more practical fashion, this guide includes necessary information about visas, health, crime and personal safety, and where to find money and banks. The writers portray India as a beautiful and interesting country with bold colors and extravagant sites, but also a patriarchal land that remains socially conservative. The Rough Guide to India is an important book for anyone who’s considering traveling to India.

Review by Farhana Uddin
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