Traveling to India With Indian-American Actor Sid Veda
Have you seen this character created by funny man Sid Veda for Metro PCS? Well, he has landed this national commercial spot (click here to learn more about that). We chatted at the K-1 Celebrity Go Cart Challenge in Gardena, CA last Saturday, and I had to ask him for his advice on taking a trip to India. Sid was born in Maryland, but in 2005 he made his sixth sojourn to his family’s country of origin.
Maxine: What do you do when you go India?
Sid: Well, I did most of the touristy things when I was a tiny kid. So now as an adult, I see family and eat really well. We stay in a relatively poor village, which can be humbling. Exposure to other people and other cultures can really make you see how lucky we are in America.
Maxine: Most people may not realize how different people from various parts of India are. Where are you from?
Sid: My family is from the South. My father is from a coastal town called Visakhapatnam, or “Vizag,” and my mother is also from the South. She was born in Kanpur and grew up in Rajahmundry. They came to the United States a couple of years before I was born.
Maxine: What advice would you give first-time visitors to India?
Maxine: India can be a pretty hard first trip for Americans. I know the initial culture shock was kind of hard for me. Just getting off the plane at 10 pm in Mumbai and experiencing the throngs of people at the airport can be really overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for it.
Sid: Yes, there are like a billion Indians! But Indians are such a lovely people and I just encourage tourists to see and experience everything you can. It will give you such an opportunity to appreciate the differences between the biggest democracy in the world and the US.
I went to India (Mumbai and Gujarat) when I was a fundraiser for American Cancer Society International back in 2008. Here are some of the things I remember that might make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable.
1. Get your shots.
2. Indian food can be a bit hard on the stomach when you eat it morning, noon and night, although I personally really love it. Pack some Balance bars (or whatever bars you like) for those days when you just need to eat a little something but don’t feel like eating a full-blown Indian meal.
3. Spring for the highest-rated hotel you can. When I initially arrived, I stayed in a three-star hotel and even though I’m not a total princess (OK, some may beg to differ) I did transfer to the Oberoi, a gorgeous luxury experience.
4. Go to Elephanta Island – the Place of Caves. It has amazing history. Hire one of the guides who can walk you around and explain things. If you are feeling like Cleopatra, you can even get carried up the stairs to the caves.
5. Feel free to bargain. For some reason, I had a sign on me that said, “I will buy anything” – but my driver would stand firm with them and not allow me to buy things without bargaining.
6. Go to the textile market if you are in Gujarat. You have never seen such gorgeous fabrics.
7. Hire a driver to pick you up from the airport. It’s even better if you can hire a driver who can meet you at the gate, because I’m not kidding when I say you will be overwhelmed by the throngs of people outside the barricades at Mumbai airport. I am amazed that I was able to find a sign with my name on it … even though my name is 17 letters long!
8. Mosquito repellant. Bring it; wear it.
9. Enjoy the people. As Sid said, they really are so lovely. They will share everything about their gorgeous culture if you are willing to learn it. Unlike my visit to Morocco, I actually felt super-safe in India. Traveling as a woman can sometimes be tough, so I do believe we have to be just a little more careful and keep our wits about us.