India blog: Never stay in a five star hotel in India

2012-01-14 00:00

Location: Jaipur

I thought the roads in Delhi were busy; Jaipur adds camels, elephants and horse drawn wagons to the on-tar chaos. However, none of it matters since I'm living it up at the Sheraton Rajputana which comes with a butler, a chauffer and the luxury of not worrying about everything that you eat or drink. Its a needed stop off to wash my hair, pluck my eyebrows and do something about my nails... As well as attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

Walking through the comfort-saturated halls of the hotel i can barely remember the streets of Delhi; the noises, the smells and the chaos are absorbed by the feather down duvets and the immense friendliness of the hotel staff and their overwhelming willingness to oblige to my every enquiry.

Dining at one of the hotel's three restaurants, I reached for the spoon to dish some malai kofta on to my plate and had two waiters race towards me to seize the spoon from my hand and dish for me. Like whaat!?

Evidently I'm not used to such million dollar treatment, and while it was a delight, it kills India in that removes you from truly experiencing Bharat. Walking along the streets trying to get the attention of an auto or ricksha driver that doesn't understand English and then try to explain how to get to your hotel; fighting off conartists on the streets; falling for the spin of brilliant street salesman... Luxury hotels protect you from all of that. You can practically live in the hotel and never leave and still get some shopping done (the Sheraton has an area with shops that sells everything a tourist would want from Rajasthan), experience the culture and enjoy whatever comforts you wish.

While touring Delhi, our guide described 'old Delhi' as a tourist attraction, adding that the area would never be developed as it would ruin the culture that tourists expected to see. Old Delhi can be described as city squalor - roads are narrow and busy with piles of refuse strewn across everything. Buildings are delapidating and the walls blackened, with water leaking from them and people collecting it to drink. It is the opposite of new Delhi where there's a metro, skyscrapers and women who work.

It just feels wrong to experience a place like that from five star luxury... Like finishing a playstation game using the online cheat (not that online cheats always work... I'm still trying to solve that damn rubics cube).

That said, I'm really enjoying this... On top of the five star comfort, every night a spectacular event is held for delegates of the conference with a cultural show and dinner. Yesterday was apparently the best with dancers on the roof of a building across a lake from where the delegates sat. Bogged down by the flu, I missed it but the other two were no doubt beautiful. The streets of Jaipur have been decorated with rangoli (a type of folk art often on the floors of houses to welcome guests) and the decor at the designated locations for the conference are so amazing that...

Let's just say that, surrounded by all this beauty and luxury, I'm forgetting that I'm in India... To be honest, it feels more like paradise.

* Tharuna Devchand went to India courtesy of the India Consulate for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that is being held in Jaipur on January 7-9, 2012.

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