To reach “Incredible India,” I flew non-stop about 8,000 miles in 16 hours.
“Never had there been a better time to have been born in India,” declared a business mogul on Delhi television.
“And never has there been a better time to visit India than today, “ he might have added. Not only to see incredible India with its museums, bazaars, palaces, restaurants ,forts, temples, mosques, and synagogues, but also to witness the economic boom that has overtaken this sub-continent.
Never before has there been a better time to travel south to Cochin, renamed Kochi, a port of call for traders for thousands of years. Here the Jewish community has been a part of the Indian mosaic for more than two millennia.
Never has there been a better a better time to see an ancient Jewish community which for the first time in decades has begun to stabilize itself and perceive even a brighter future. For the first time in many years, young Indian Jews are not leaving for Israel or other lands, but staying put in a country which has a nine per cent economic growth rate. India is the world’s fastest growing major economy after China.
India’s growth is an urban phenomenon. Jews live in the cities where incomes are rising fast to catch up with international standards and reflect a higher standard of living. “There is less reason (for young people) to emigrate,” explains Kaisar Ahmad of Chappaqua NY, a marketing and international business consultant.
About 5,000 Jews live in India. Talking to them in Delhi,--- the national capital, or Mumbai (Bombay)--- the business capital of nearly 20 million where two thousand new residents enter the city every day to find a job--- or Kochi--- a wonderful peaceful city along the Arabian Sea, one finds them fiercely wedded to Judaism and to their native land.
“Israel is in my heart; India in my blood” says Attorney Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, of the Judah Hyam Synagogue, 2 Humayun Road, opposite Taj Mahal Hotel, near the Christian cemetery, New Delhi. Single handedly, he keeps the seven- family- Jewish community alive. “There is no rabbi, no chazzan, no shoichet, and usually no minyan,” he says, but always services at 6:30 pm. Friday, in winter, (7 pm. in summer,) and Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.
Mumbai contains several functioning synagogues, including a Reform movement of Judaism congregation which meets at the Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center sponsored and aided by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, (JDC) which assists seniors and less fortunate Indian Jews, with monthly cash assistance, medical programs, medicine, as well as a Sunday school and senior citizens home. To see the Jewish community and the needed work of JDC, visit this JCC, the heart of the community, at D.G. Ruparel College, Bal Govindas Marg, near Ruby Mills Gate, off Tulsi Pipe road, Matunga. Tel: 2431—4734 or 2433-1734.
Thinking of traveling to India? Remember that it stretches from the tropics right up to the temperate regions, from near the equator to the cold heart of Asia. This country in southern Asia with its approximate 1.3 billion citizens ranks in population as the second largest country in the world. Only China exceeds it.
Like most tourists, this writer traveled the golden triangle of India tourism, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Every stone tells a story of an India which came into contact with the Persians, the Egyptians , the Greeks, the Chinese, the Arabs, the Central Asians and the people of the Mediterranean, including the Jews.
Experience the Delhi market at Chandni Chowk on a bicycle- rickshaw, which puts to shame most bazaars or shuks anywhere in the world. And oh, those pashmina shawls and Rajasthan jewelry!
Ah, the Taj Mahal! Nothing like it in the world. Number one Wonder of the World. The Red Fort in Agra, the Amber Fort in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar observatory, the Ghandi museum in Delhi, well-worth the long flight.
To ride an elephant up to the ramparts of the Amber Fort is to live the past of an India that has entered the global economy with a passion.
India, with infinite charm, diversity, fascinating history, mixed culture, vast plains, huge mountains, mighty rivers and great forests, awaits you.
Ben G. Frank, travel writer, is the author of “A Travel Guide to Jewish Europe, 3rd edition; “A Travel Guide to Jewish Russia & Ukraine; and “A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and South America.”(all Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, LA.
Contact India Tourism, 1-800-953-9399. Web: incredibleindia.org