A Seattleites Guide to India

The chasm between Seattle and India is growing smaller by the day. New Delhi is one of the farthest cities to travel from Seattle, yet despite this great distance, more people from India are making the US home.

In 2016, India and China totaled 82% of the United States’ H-1B visas; India held 126,692 of those visas compared to China’s 21,657. The majority of the visas went to employees in STEM fields. With Seattle being a hotbed for STEM employers, the stories of Seattle and India are now inextricably linked.

Recently given the chance to travel to India, I jumped at the opportunity. Romance and allure are a few words that first came to my mind when thinking about India, but nothing I had read or heard about really prepared me for what India would be like in the flesh.

NEW DELHI

New Delhi served as my home base during my trip. It’s a major hub and the seat of the government for India. I’d compare it to New York, in that you either love it or hate it. New Delhi is rough around the edges and crowded. Livestock share the roads with vehicles and “smoke” was the daily forecast. The smoke was such a presence during my trip, that every time I get a whiff of smoke now, it takes me back to New Delhi.

  • Before shopping at any other market, visit a Delhi Haat outdoor market first. For novice market shoppers it’s an experience into itself. Most outdoor markets have vendors that are pushy and nag. Shopping at outdoor markets can be overwhelming. Delhi Haat is less jarring and low key compared to the other street markets. I also found they had the best quality of products. Bartering is still a must, if you don’t the merchants will think you’re rude.
  • Visit a Hindu temple. They’re scattered throughout the city, pick one that’s close to you and go with reverence.
  • Since New Delhi is India’s capital, visiting some government buildings is a must. You can hop in a rickshaw and send the driver in the direction of the Central Secretariat Building. Your ride there will be the most action packed and exciting thing you do during your trip. Riding around the streets of India is chaos, you’re likely to think you’re about to die but you’ll come out the other end feeling more alive than ever.
  • India Gate is a war memorial honoring fallen soldiers of World War I. A sobering monument that helps illustrate that the World Wars affected more than just the United States and Europe.

AGRA

  • Agra is a 2-hour drive from New Delhi and home to the Taj Mahal. To see and touch one of The Seven Wonders of the world in person, will take your breath away. The Taj Mahal was built in the 17th century by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the remains of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Muhal died after giving birth to their 14th child.

KANPUR

What is supposed to be an 8-hour overnight train ride from New Delhi will take you 13 hours if you experience dense fog like I did.

  • Indian Railways is the world’s 7th largest employer with 1.4 million employees and transports over 8 billion passengers per year. That’s the equivalent of transporting the entire population of Australia per day. To say the train stations are busy is an understatement. Even with an 11pm departure time, the density of the crowd made me feel like I was walking through a human corn field.
  • At train stops along the way, be sure to hop off and grab a chai. Be fast and scrappy so you get back to the train before it leaves!
  • Arriving at Kanpur, I found the city was similar to New Delhi, but on a much smaller scale. The remnants of British colonization is still present. Adopted British habits, like the love for tea and cricket are obvious holdovers, but the physical mark, especially in Kanpur is inescapable. The architecture seems out of place, once regal and now run down, the buildings serve as a historical scar on the city.

MUMBAI

If New Delhi is like New York, then Mumbai is like Los Angeles. Mumbai is the epicenter of Bollywood. But that’s not the only obvious comparison to LA. There was sunshine, palm trees, sandy beaches, and glamour – all with an Indian twist. Mumbai is where you actually feel like you’re on vacation. Staying at the JW Marriott at Juhu Beach, everything was pure luxury. The hotel has a grand staircase, live sitar music, opulent eats, and a stunning poolside where you can take in December sunshine. You might even be lucky like me and have a run-in with a Bollywood star.

India is an adventure for those who crave it. Truly its own world within a world, every 100 kilometers the dialect changes, and every 500 kilometers the language changes. My time there only scratched the surface of what is possible to experience. The adventure enriched my mind and heart and gave me a new depth with which to see my Indian neighbors who now call Seattle home.