India…to go or not go to?

Gateway of India, MumbaiImage by Andy Hay via FlickrWe are supposed to take off for India in a few weeks.  We were very excited as we began to gather information about restaurants, stores, off the beaten track finds, etc.  Needless to say, our excitement has turned to ambivalence.  Should we go or should we not go?

We have all been scouring the Internet daily to learn more about the tragic events in Mumbai.  Hearing from friends and friends of friends with information and stories.  There are a million stories as there was on and after 9/11.  I just look at the pictures and read about the pain in all the hearts of Indians and my mind returns to 9/11.  How can it not?

Everyone has their 9/11 story.  Although we did not lose anybody close to us on 9/11, we knew people who did.  We also live downtown and watched the planes fly into the buildings, literally.  We walked up Sixth Avenue holding hands with our young children while people roamed the streets blood stained and covered with white soot.  Every day for weeks, the air would change with a fog and bad smell depending on which way the wind was blowing.  We did not feel safe with Bush at the helm, as it appears now, we were right in our assessment of his leadership or lack there of.

Although the city was buzzing the next day, as if nothing had happened, you could feel the change.  It was in everyone's face, it was in the body language.  There was an edge of fear but you had to move on.  We live in NYC, we can't just crawl under a rock because then the terrorists have won.  We all needed to return to our daily life with hopes that time heals all wounds.  And it did.

Yet, when another place in the world, that is just living everyday life, gets hit with an act of terrorism, it makes all of us take pause.  It brings back a rush of memories. 

On one hand, I know in my gut that India will probably the safest it has ever been in the next few months.  I know that there will be a slight edge to the country that didn't exist before.  I know that Indians will be thrilled to have tourists come and visit their country after a terrorist rampage.  But, will there be a war between Indian and Pakistan?  Will we feel scared while we are there?  Will we be jumpy?

At the end of the day, it is about the kids.  If it was only me and Fred, I wouldn't hesitate to jump on that plane, as planned, in a few weeks.  I don't want terrorism to rule the way I live my life. But, the kids, who were quite young on 9/11 (5, 8 and 10) shouldn't have to feel fear on their winter vacation.  

If anyone wants to weigh in on this decision…I'm all ears.  We plan on making this decision by tomorrow.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Geoff

    IMHO you should go – the kids can only benefit from such a journey and the chances of getting involved are surely miniscule.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks for the advice. I think we are leaning towards going.

  2. schultzmj

    your chances of being caught up in another terrorist attack are certainly pretty low just from the law of averages (what was the chance of another 9/11 event a month later) but I would be really concerned about what is going to happen between India and Pakistan as the details of the Mumbai events start to come out and the tension continues to rise between the two.I would likely switch my trip to the next place on your “list” that you want to visit (I would recommend South Africa if you have not been) and then come back to India the next time around assuming things have played out and are calmer.

  3. Tom

    I hope that you all go to India. The others make good points when they point out the chances are tiny that you’d get into trouble.I wanted to point out that your kids (and mine) could all benefit from seeing how other cultures deal with dramatic events such as this.I’m teaching my son to observe and try to understand the world around him and sometimes that means taking him to places where things aren’t all “safe”

    1. Gotham Gal

      I’m taking all of this in.

  4. rachel

    Having been at college in DC a mile from the Pentagon attack and having all my family in NY on 9/11 I really truly believe that you cannot let these people stop you – that they are winning if you do. However, I’m really concerned with how the Indian government dealt with and reported what went on, and I really don’t feel like we have enough information at this point for you to make an educated decision. I know you’ll have another opportunity to go again as soon more information comes out, but I really think the trip will be too nerve wracking right now. I know you’ll make the right decision, but my two cents…

  5. Gail Fallender

    I wouldn’t be so presumtuous to make that decision for you and the family – it’s really such a personal issue – you’ll rely on your cumulative intelligence and your gut feelings. I’ve been a fan of your blog for so long and enjoy vicariously your rich, full life. Love reading about my old stompin’ grounds, NYC. Whatever your decision, if you haven’t already got one, I hope you’ll treat yourself to the Amazon Kindle. For you, an avid reader and frequent traveler, it would be the best present you could give yourself. I’ve had mine for only 3 weeks and love it, love it, love it! Will look forward to your final decision.

  6. ellen

    Being a bit older than most of your readers and a grandmother, I say don’t go. There is no reason to feel that you must be brave and go. You did not have a choice after 9/11 but you do now. Many of the children from unsafe countries just want to feel safe and not hear the bombs anymore. There will always be turmoil in the world somewhere, but there is no reason to expose the children. If when they are older, they want to be in harm’s way fine. Would you have wanted the children to feel the environment of Nazi Germany just for the “experience”? You don’t personally know if there is any danger left and remember the children are American and half Jewish, both targets for terrorism. Granted, you can’t live your life under an umbrella, but you would be foolish to travel to India so soon after an attack.

  7. Jonathan

    This is a tough one. The targeting of Westerners, and Jews in particular, is frightening. The Pakistan/India conflict has, too often, resulted in violence within India’s borders. While no one knows who did what, if India responds with an attack against Pakistan, it could start a “tit for tat” cycle. The argument that “if you don’t go, the terrorists win” is a great sound bite, but meaningless in the end.You have to ask yourself: will the incredibly small chance that this action will be repeated (while you are there) worth calling the trip off? Is the probability of another attack happening lower as a result of the recent attack? Probably. India is an amazing place. The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen and much better in person than in photographs. The only thing more exciting would be to see it through my children’s eyes – which is something you’ll (hopefully) do.Will the country be in such a fog that the trip won’t be enjoyable? I remember traveling to New York in November, 2001, flying on a virtually empty plane. We had moved from Manhattan to London a week before 9/11 and wanted to come back for an anniversary party of some close friends. We also wanted to see what New York was like and be supportive of friends and family. The mood, as you well know, was dour but not morbid. I would expect India to be the same.I think you should go.

  8. Dhru Purohit

    All of my family members and friends (both Indian and American) that have plans to be in India over the next 3 months are still moving forward with their plans.Like you many of my American friends had reservations to continue with their plans, but they were all leaning towards going.I say go.What cities will you be in?

  9. ns

    Do you have to decide immediately? I would plan a backup to have in place and watch what unfolds between Pakistan and India. If the geopolitical situation gets heated (and imho it will), take the backup trip. If the situation stays level enjoy your trip to India. If you have to decide tomorrow I think you might be looking for a problem – I would reschedule India for June/July/August so you are committed to supporting that great country, but for the near term take another great vacation.

  10. linzc111

    I am hoping to piggyback on the advice you are getting. I was supposed to go to India as part of a larger Asia trip, but I dont feel comfortable going anymore. I was in India last year and I felt like I stood out a lot (white female, sometimes traveling alone). Even though I dont plan to stay in nice hotels, I’m sure I will find myself at tourist attractions, and just walking around we will stand out unfortunately.If I had already bought the tickets, I may be talking myself into going right now rather than debating it. But as of now, I feel too concerned to commit.

  11. gregorylent

    completely silly .. makes me sad that a smart person would even think this stuff … of course you should go … india is a gift to the world … and get out of the cities … and don’t go to the tourist stuff, it is not very important … i have lived here for 12+ years, it is fabulous … jeez, mediated minds haven’t a clue

  12. Frank Lynch

    I don’t know. The specific targeting of westerners is more than a random bombing of which there have been a few over the years. If I had a trip coming up soon (which I don’t) I would defer. The chances of you being caught up in anything are very slim but if I were there now I would find it a very nerve wrecking experience to be always looking over my shoulder, hitting the deck whenever a car backfires or wary of every strangers approach. You won’t find me in India this side of 3/09 if I have any say in the matter.I agree gregorylent India is a gift to the world and a place I would encourage anyone to experience but I don’t think it’s the act of a mediated mind to defer a trip for a couple of months while the geopolitics plays out.

    1. rox

      Gotham Gal…My vote is a go….. With all due respect, recognizing the tragedy in Mumbai, the epicenter of targets is not restricted to India. Geopolitics of fear generate a climate change that is by far more damaging than venturing out to witness the world as it is…Sure, we can continue to pump up the volume as to what we should and should not be doing because of…..Media-ted pros and cons..CNN’s headline news this day: Biological terror attack likely by 2013′ what next? For a moment read like a National Enquirer headline..remember their tagline? Because Enquiring Minds Want To Know.. well, my suggestion is A-rest the headlines and explore what carries the potential of being a very in-sight-full vacation. enjoy.

  13. fredwilson

    this is such a great example of why blogging is a great practice. we’ve been struggling with this decision for days and this discussion is as good as any we’ve had. thanks everyone!

  14. tweetip

    Can a wildfire strike the same place twice? Depends on if the energy replanted is new & alive or the same old thing.An opinion not shared by many, on 9/11 we took away that World Finance was the target of terrorism. And today, World Finance has imploded from terrorism within the collective US.We’ve learned a lot this week about new terminology of forecasting and wildcards and cones of uncertainty. Keep refining your cone and assess risk.hth 🙂

  15. kenberger

    India, especially the North, is a complete and utter frontal, back, and sides assault on your senses. Chances are great that you will both love it and hate it. It is almost never a “winter vacation” (unless you just stick to Goa), more of a true experience. Grueling (even if you’re attempting it first class), but worth it to most.The events of last week are extreme, but as you’ll see, it will be just one more aspect of the nonstop cacophony that is India.You’ll realize this from the moment you approach the runway, and it won’t relent until you’re back on the plane.

    1. Frank Lynch

      couldn’t agree more Ken. Your right. If I had the chance to go back, even in the morning, I’d take it. Thanks for reminding me.

  16. b

    Everywhere you go in life there are bound to be risks, I’m sure you and your family are well aware of this… but let’s recap:- terrorist attacks could happen again (probabilistically you’re more likely to get hit by a moving vehicle or mooing cow, though, while in India :-))- india could go to war with Pakistan – if it happens, it’ll happen in the north west near kashmir, that’s where altercations would occur, or at least occur first – since it’s currently not monsoon season in India, you can safely venture down as south as you like. Though war between India and Pakistan is possible, it’s not exactly likely either (it would not be taken lightly by the international community)- your kids are extremely fortunate to have this opportunity- you are fortunate to have this opportunity- you are going to India and not to a resort in the carribean for more than one reason – i’m sure this is not lost on your childrenI would say that if your kids aren’t scared or averse to going, you shouldn’t be either.Best,b

    1. b

      also: kenberger is totally spot on 🙂

  17. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    Of course you should go.First of all, it’s a statement that civilization cannot be defeated by terror.Second of all, the fact that there has just been a terrorist attack makes it actually SAFER. It’s a matter of simple statistics. New York was safest after 9/11. Same thing with London, Madrid, Paris and other cities struck by terrorists.Third of all, that means the place is going to be cheaper and there’s going to be much less tourists, which makes for a much more enjoyable stay.But most of all, it’s going to make for a unique experience. I go to Israel pretty often, and I went right after the Lebanon War, and the atmosphere was different. People are a little bit more grateful for, and a little bit less annoyed by tourists. Sightseeing feels a little less shallow. You’re not just walking around tourist spots, you’re also stepping in history. Café Leopold, which was one of the places attacked by terrorists, is already open for business again. How is that not impressive? It makes me want to be there, right now, not at another time.

  18. Chris

    I hope you go. I commented to Fred over on friend feed that we went in March with our 8 and 10 year old kids. They enjoyed it and learned a lot. People in India were friendly to us everywhere we went. I suspect you want your kids to see a very different part of the world – India definitely is different. I hope my kids can go back one day and compare how things have changed.

  19. Vamsee Kanakala

    As any Indian would say – you’re most welcome to visit us. Yeah, probably it’s not the safest country in the world right now, but which country is? And the world is getting smaller. Your kids will have to face the real world sooner or later. Putting a passion for travelling and at least a basic understanding of different cultures will make them better people when they grow up. And India is as good an education they’ll ever get in multi-culturalism :).

  20. Henry Friedland

    My son and his mother are booked to leave for Delhi December 15. She is Indian born and he is, as he calls himself, a Hinjew. I have been divorced from his mother since he was 3. He is now 17. I love India and have watched them leave together for many trips over the years. It’s always difficult to have him so far away, too far to reach him in minutes if he is in need. But fully believing that his life is being shaped in so many wondrous ways by India has kept my anxiety at tolerable levels.I am very concerned this time. And it is not the threat of terrorism. It is the threat of tensions between India and Pakistan, between Hindu and Muslim. The potential is there for an extremely rapid escalation of hostilities.The capacity for violence and brutality in India is frightening; it is an awesomely alive and passionate country. It remains to be seen how this Mumbai attack will resonate.Search the groups forming on Facebook. Former in-laws of mine have reportedly started one to gather support for “punishing” Pakistan. Perhaps consider having the ability to get out quickly if you need to. Maybe arranging for close proximity to private aircraft at any point of the trip is worth pondering.I hope some of this has been helpful.

  21. Roberta Balsam

    Joanne, Fred Hi.I am going to India Marcfh 1st and have the same dilema. I think we will go, because who knows who is safe at any time and any place. I think you are right when you say that it probably will be safest now. to travel there. Let me know what you decide..Roberta

  22. vishalsood

    This comment comes from an Indian so maybe its biased a little. India has seen such attacks for a long time but these are intermittent. I mean they happen and life goes on for a long time and they happen again.Having said that, it was different this time, they were targetting specific people and had a well defined plan. Even after the attack, there are rumors of all kinds everyday the public wants the government to take some action. All these might lead to some kind of chaos. Also, as you rightly mention, after an attack the security is at the highest so if you don’t mind delays my gutt is you should be safe.I saw this late so sorry if my words did not reach in time :). Hope your decision turns out in your favor. Let me know if you need any tourist tips .. I will try to give you any I can :)CheersVishal

  23. Amma

    Hi Guys.I am in the same predicament.Although I myself am from London UK I am supposed to go to India on Jan 4TH. But I just dont think it is a good idea to go now. I myself will be travelling alone and I just think I will be looking over my shoulder all the time. 4 hour waits to check in at airports, armed guards everywhere,worry…I mean you are on holliday for *** sake!I dont think you should go especially with kids and I will also re-think in Jan . The question is not about going to India, it is about going there RIGHT NOW. You want to be in a holliday spirit…but dont think you will relax!Its your choice but the England Cricket team would not go unless they had 300 armed guards and took a whole two floors of a hotel and will never leave it for security…that says someting!!