Prologue - A return to India & Bollywood Bazaar

New Delhi Travel Blog

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Bollywood Bazaar, India Festival, Amsterdam

“Third time to India in two years, you really must like that country!” That’s a remark I’ve heard quite a few times lately and which I had to deny as often. My first trip to India was a business trip to Chennai and besides visiting a couple of sights in the area over the weekend, this wasn’t really a holiday. As a matter of fact, it was so uncomfortably hot that I ended up staying in the air-conditioned hotel for a substantial part of my leisure time.


Second time in India was my trip to Ladakh

in the Himalaya region of North-Western India.

Bollywood Bazaar, India Festival, Amsterdam
This turned out to be my best journey so far but I would be the first to point out that there’s a world of difference between Ladakh and most of the rest of
India. Whereas India is dominated by Hinduism, Ladakh had mainly a Tibetan Buddhist culture. People were different; the climate was more comfortable, etc. My reason for going to Ladakh had much more to do with my disappointment of seeing the Chinese suppression in Tibet and the desire to see the Tibetan culture the way it used to be than any large interest in India as a whole. Sure, we did see some amazing things in Delhi and Amritsar but I never really felt like India was ‘my kind of place’.
Bollywood Bazaar, India Festival, Amsterdam
Certainly not my favourite holiday destination as a whole.


Then why go again? Well, initially I had planned to pick up my ex-girlfriend in Dharamsala. She had planned to do four months of volunteering with Tibetan refugees but never really passed the one month mark before packing up and leaving to tour South-East Asia instead. The trip had been meant to give her the opportunity to see something of India without having to travel by herself while I got the chance of seeing some places I definitely wanted to visit in India. Her changed plans sort of left me in a situation where I had to find a different travel companion and change the itinerary.


Fortunately my former manager and good friend Bart had once mentioned that he’d be very interested in joining me on a trip to Asia. It only took a couple of phone calls for him to decide and arrange that he’d be joining me on a tour through Northern India. I also used the opportunity to change the places to be visited, removing Dharamsala (no need to go there anymore) and adding Jaipur and several important places that the Buddha had visited. The resulting itinerary was a two week tour of some 2700 kilometres by planes, trains and automobiles, bringing us to places of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist cultures. The first part of the trip would take us to palaces and forts of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. The second part would have us visit the Hindu centre of Varanasi and the trip would conclude with a weeklong tour of the Buddhist Circle, visiting such legendary places as Bodhgaya (where the Buddha reached enlightenment), Sarnath (where he gave his first sermon) and Kushinagar (where he died) passing other important sites along the way.


So essentially this would be a journey that would give is a taste of different cultures and would be as much a sort of a pilgrimage for me and Bart, who in recent years had also developed an interest in Buddhism. As a sort of ‘taster’ we decided to visit the Bollywood Bazaar event in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw in November. This event was part of the India Festival and was supposed to be a mixture of song, dance and orchestral performances around the theme of India and Bollywood. To be honest, afterwards I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. The most authentic part of India, a lovely raga band, only was allowed to play 2 or 3 songs. The big orchestra performed some classical pieces and two seemingly famous Bollywood singers performed a few songs which really were an acquired taste, to say the least. They were enormously popular with the people from Indian descent though. Besides Indian visitors most of the other people here were either more upper-class or overage hippies dressing up in Indian attire. Not really my type of crowd, so we left early, hoping for something more authentic after we’d landed in Delhi four weeks later. ;-)

Usquert says:
Like the prologue, curious about what will be next.
Wish you a great trip and pilgrimage.

See ya, buddy!

By the way INDIA stands for I Never Do It Again (not your opinion, nor mine :-)
Posted on: Dec 17, 2008
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photo by: peeyushmalhotra