In a country so overwhelming like India, where everything is weighed on the scales of tradition and culture, every corner has its unique elements and idiosyncrasies.No guide-book can spell out the intricacies of customs and cultural extravaganza that defines the very roots of this colorful nation. It is only the people of our country, who live with her secrets in their bloodstream, the billions who make her who she is - the incredible India! Thus to experience the real diversity of India and its distinctive charm, the best idea is to live with a local.
This country, where guests are considered the equivalent of God, has given shelter to travelers since time immemorial. Keeping their needs and comfort above our own has been customary. When you stay at a home of a local family, you will see reflections of their culture and heritage in even the most mundane parts of everyday. Gypsy Shack lists 7 reasons why a home away from home is the best way to see the true colours of diversity that India represents:
India is a land steeped in culture and traditions, one of its ideals being "Atithi Devo Bhava" which is a Sanskrit phrase that means "The guest is equivalent to God." Staying with an Indian family will give you a true taste of the meaning of this phrase. You'll be treated like a member of the family, and all your needs will be meticulously taken care of. Moreover, homestays almost always have fewer guests and as such the host is able to attend to each one of them individually.
This literally translates to "Thank you for the trouble." (Photo courtesy: adayinlife.timesofindia.com)
Staying with a local family will help you learn more about the customs and traditions prevalent in that part of the country. You will get an understanding of society, the good and the bad that defines it- what values function as framework, what social evils plague it, the current political situation and so on. Often there will be someone elderly in the family who will be happy to tell you about local legends, mythologies, traditions and festivals.
Guests celebrating Basanta Utsav in Santiniketan (Photo courtesy: unwto.org)
Who else other than locals to give you all updated information about the place? Ask them about the best restaurants in town, the latest gatherings, concerts and festivals. They will tell you about monuments, off-the-map beaches, remote viewpoints, secret alleys, hole-in-wall eateries that rustle up the best food in town and other things that no guide book will ever tell you about.
Home-stay hosts are your best source for any information on your destination (Photo courtesy: Breath Dream Go)
The best part of staying in a homestay is this that you get to dig into delicious fresh, home-cooked food, and that too authentic local cuisine. Often your host will be willing to share with you recipes that have been handed down for ages. Learn about local produces, spices and traditional cooking methods. In a home stay, you'll also get to gorge on dishes that will not find on the menus of even the best restaurant in town.
Guests enjoy traditional Sikkimese food at a homestay (Photo courtesy: Padhaaro)
Lend a hand in the daily chores of your host. Often this can turn out into something as unique as picking apples at a farm, or buying fresh produce from a market. Go for a dip in the river or partake in activities as uncommon as grounding peppercorns. Maybe join the kids in a game of cricket or football in the lanes, board games, or maybe even antakshari in the evening.
Participating in household activities (Photo courtesy: GypsyShack)
Why stay in bland, semi-identical hotel rooms when you can stay in traditional houses? Think of staying in a cottage or in a loft in a farm or an opulent Haveli or in a restored colonial building! The options are endless. Airbnb is the best place to seek out such unique places to stay on your holidays.
Stay in traditional lodgings like this one (Photo courtesy: Prismma)
At a homestay, it is always a give and take affair. Nothing reeks of commercialization. The amount you pay is often very little compared to the care and attention you get in return. No amount of professional hospitality can ever match up to amiable warmth and friendliness. Even if you aren't the backpacker or the frugal traveler, staying at a homestay will give you an opportunity to explore the local life to its roots by immersing yourself into it. The superfluous artificiality is absent here.
Getting to know the locals (Photo courtesy: GypsyShack)
So where are you planning to stay on your next trip?