Ask Shalu

If you are visiting India and would like to know something then why not ask me. What better way to get your questions answered by a native of India! If you have any questions; no matter how silly they are, send me an email on info@ShaluSharma.com or use the contact form here. I will try to answer your questions as best as I can.

Your questions answered by Shalu

Ask Shalu

Ask Shalu

Question on buying water

I am staying at a couple 5 star places, but most of my lodging will be Bed and Breakfasts. Is it safe to buy water from a grocery store? Do I have to worry about people refilling water bottles in stores or just on the streets?

Buying bottled water is fine from stores. Just do not buy from an individual on the streets. Shops/stalls are generally fine. Make sure that the lids have been factory sealed and not glued together. If it is then, it probably has been refilled with tap water. Further reading on water buying guide in India.

Wedding question – what to wear in an Indian wedding?

My friend asked me to buy 2 saris to wear to his wedding in Pune. He has been impossible to get in touch with. Will a lengha work as well, instead or should it be a sari? Does it really matter. It is a sindhi wedding.

Lehenga is fine; it’s a wedding dress that can be worn by the bride and guests alike. Saris are great as well. I personally would wear a Sari but a lehenga would do great as well. You can wear either one of them. Here’s how to wear the sari.

Question on what to wear in India (for females)

I was particularly worried about what to wear in India. I bought a bunch of brightly colored trousers. Some of these trousers are fitted but they go to my ankles or heels. I plan on wearing tops. What do think?

Your clothes seem to be fine as far as tops and trousers are concerned. I would refrain from wearing skimpy clothes. Perhaps you could consider wearing Indian clothes. Jeans and tops are fine. I prefer to wear jeans that do not show the shape of the bottom or tops that hide the hips. Although, its perfectly fine if you don’t. Perhaps I am being too conservative. You can also wear combat pants as they can free you hands.

Question on celiac disease

I have celiac disease. I am very concerned that no one in India will understand what gluten is? I cannot digest gluten and get really sick if I do consume it. Gluten is in breads, sauces (as flour), pastas etc. I usually eat a lot of salads, except I won’t be able to enjoy that in India as the water is an issue. Rice, potatoes, corn is all ok. Do you think it will be difficult for me to find safe foods to eat that do not contain gluten?

You are right about the celiac disease, it’s not common. I do not think anyone would understand if you tell them that you have celiac disease. What you need to say is that you do eat wheat products. Flour in Hindi is AATA (pronounced, aaa taaa and wheat is GHEHU, pronounced gee huu . Remember those two words. Let the waiters know.

37 Responses to “Ask Shalu”

  1. Elaine Cook says:

    Hello Shalu,

    I found your website from Wandering Earl’s blog…………it looks fantastic – just what I need!

    I’m travelling to India for the first time in just over two weeks and I can’t wait to read all of your great advice – I’m sure it will help me greatly.

    I have one very worrying problem however, and I didn’t know where to go for help……until now!!

    I have recently been diagnosed with gallstones and must have my gall bladder removed upon my return to the UK after my trip to India. I am trying to control the symptoms (debilitating, nasty chest pain lasting for 6 to 7 hours) with a low fat diet.

    My problem is I don’t know much at all about Indian cuisine and I’m worried that I’ll make the wrong choices and end up in agony for hours. I can’t take painkillers as they make me very ill, so if I make a mistake and eat a meal that contains too much fat content, then I’ll suffer.

    Would you please be able to provide me with a list of which Indian foods, meals, drinks etc are high in fat, and so I must avoid. I’d be very, very grateful if you’d advise on low fat foods, meals, drinks etc that are low in fat and maybe this will help me control the symptoms and avoid any attacks of pain.

    My blog “A Geordie Up The Ganges” can be found at http://www.ageordieuptheganges

    Thank you for reading this Shalu.

    Hoping you can help.

    Kind Regards

  2. Shalu Sharma says:

    Hello Elaine

    Thank you for your message.

    First I would like to suggest you become a vegetarian for the duration of your trip to India. Do not meat or fish while in India or least not in restaurants you do not know much about. I tend not to eat meat when I am travelling. Chances of stomach upsets with dodgy vegetables are less compared to meat. In short, unless it’s not from a reputable place, do not eat meat!

    I hope you had your hepatitis A, cholera and typhoid jabs from your GP in the UK. As far as I am aware, they need to be taken at least 6 weeks in advance to your trip and a booster at 6 months will immune you for life. One of the reasons why tourists become sick is because of the food and drink. Always buy bottled water. Indian food is great but sometimes if the person is not used to it then it can cause diarrhoea. Avoid street food as most of them are deep fried snacks and hygiene standards are extremely low.

    Indian food can be quite fatty. You need to avoid “parathas” and “puris” that are typically prepared by shallow and deep frying respectively. Try to eat plain rotis (chapattis) or naan breads with vegetable curry such as “matar paneer” for example. Many of the Indian food are prepared in ghee (clarified butter) so try to avoid ghee if you can. Eat boiled rice with daal (lentils) or perhaps vegetable biryanis. If you are in a restaurant, you can always ask to prepare the food in less oil.

    Indian sweets are very fattening. Typical Indian sweets would be “ras malais” and “ras gullas”. If you are avoiding fat food, then do not these.
    A very popular Indian drink is “lassi”, it’s made of yoghurt and milk. Although very tasty, it can be fattening.

    India is big on fruits. The fruits that you buy in the local stores in the UK will be different in taste compared to the fruits you will find in India. Eat a lot of fruits and salads but make sure they are washed. You will find lots of juice stalls on the streets, you will need to use your own judgement if its hygiene for you or not. Make sure the glasses are well cleaned and the juice collector is free of water before you ask the vendor to squeeze the juice.

    Let me know if you need further questions answered. Feel free to comment or email me. Please note these are just suggestions and not medical advice.

    Thank you and best wishes. Hope to hear from your again.

    Shalu
    Twitter:

  3. Elaine Cook says:

    Hi Shalu,

    Thank you so very much for your very informative advice. You have helped me a great deal. I will definitely become a vegetarian during my trip to India.

    I’m looking forward to trying matar paneer and the vegetable biryanis. I enjoy daal and will stick to boiled riced and plain chapattis.

    I feel a bit more prepared now I have an idea of what may be ok for me to eat, and also what I should avoid, so thanks for that – I’m sure it will make a big difference to my trip.

    I’m glad I’ll still be able to try the wonderful Indian food.

    I’ve had all of the necessary vaccinations, so I should be able to stay fit and healthy.

    Thank you again Shalu, for taking the time to help me……I don’t feel so worried now!

    I’ll let you know how my trip goes.

    Kind Regards

    Elaine x

  4. Puja says:

    Hi I am going to visit India ..kerala..after 7 years since my last visit. Before I used to wear Indian clothes and people would bother me saying I looked like an actress… I have cut my hair a lot shorter than before so now I look very different and don’t know what to wear.. The recent gang rapes have made me feel very uncomfortable about my upcoming trip… What do you advise? In saris I got the most attention before and don’t want any…

    • Shalu says:

      Puja,
      Everything will depend what you plan to do in Kerala.
      I advice you to wear normal clothes like everyone else. They would be jeans/long skirts/combat trousers/pants and T-shirts/kurta/kameez and nothing too skimpy. Why not wear the salwar kameez, that is what most Indian women wear anyway.
      Hope this helps.
      Thank you.
      Twitter:

  5. alice says:

    how much do things cost? Like a can of soda? Or lunch ? Can you suggest some safe place to currency currency to inr ?

    • Shalu says:

      Price of a coke bottle in not very expensive. I think its around 30-40 Rupees. Drinks in India is not expensive. Lunch is also cheap, There are dhabas where you can eat which provide good good from a fraction of a price.
      Twitter:

  6. alice says:

    i mean to exchange currency. I will be visiting Chennai

    • Shalu says:

      If you are visiting Chennai, the best place to currency exchange would be at the airport before you go out. There are Thomas Cook Foreign Exchange Service in Chennai in addition to State Bank of India. There are lots of agents as well, you can ask your hotel. Best wishes.
      Twitter:

  7. Jo says:

    Dear Shalu,

    I recently came across your article about traveling in India during the monsoon. In your post you say to choose the places that receive less or no rainfall, but I am having difficulty finding these areas.
    I was wondering if you could give me any further recommendations of locations that receive less or no rainfall?

    I am looking to travel to India in August and September and haven’t got any specific locations booked yet for this reason.

    I have read that the south seems to be a good place to visit during this time? Would you suggest this?
    I would really appreciate your advice as this would be my first time in India.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Hi Jo

      Thanks for your message. Here are some of the places you could visit during the monsoon months.

      Ladakh and Leh, although this is the furthest corner of India, it’s quite a popular destination. You’ll find lots of monasteries, rugged landscape, lakes, and mountain ranges.

      Goa is another place you could go during the monsoon. You can go fishing if like it.
      The Valley of Flowers National Park is in the state of Uttarakhand open only between April to October.

      Rajasthan, you can enjoy this place as it’s a hot place and during the monsoon, it really livens up.
      How about East India like Shillong?

      Munnar is a hill station in Kerala. It’s lush during the Monsoons.

      Try Lonalvala in Maharashtra near Mumbai (Bombay). You’ll find lots of waterfalls which looks better during the monsoons.
      Coorg a hill station in Karnataka is a very romantic place. You’ll find rivers, lakes, great landscapes, valleys. It’s absolutely lovely.

      Hope this helps.
      Twitter:

  8. Kat says:

    How do I contact the Cabs for Women by Women in Delhi?

    • Shalu says:

      There are not many. But I am aware of one called Forshe cabs. Try this number which I think is a nationwide number, +91-11-44222222 or 44333222 or see forshe.co.in
      Thank you
      Twitter:

  9. Lechar says:

    Dear Shalu,
    I and a few of my friends are studying India for a school project and are also looking into making a trip to India at the end of this year. We were wondering if you would be so kind as to answer a few questions we had about the culture? Thank you for any help you are able to give us!

    1.What are the roles of men and women? What about age distinction? How are children viewed? Are there significant age landmarks?
    2.How does marriage work in your community?
    3.Do you associate food with special meanings?
    4.What do you consider modest or immodest in dress? What significance does color and style have?
    5.What is your typical day like? How do you integrate your faith?
    6.What are the important holidays you celebrate and how do you celebrate them?
    7. How do you prioritize your life? What are the most important tasks in your day?

  10. Abhishek says:

    can u tell me abt the swiss lady raped in mp.Why her program by bicycle. were they inform abt their program in visa or indian govt. and mp police. what is the law for indian tourist. have u any law full proof abt that swiss family like visa or passport copy and her, his name or their city and cell no. etc.
    because i want to know what our govt. doing and what is the mistake by that couple by law…………..

    • Shalu says:

      Abhishek, tourists to India are not required to inform the police about their day to day itinerary as they would have mentioned places they will visit already when they apply for visa. Do you really think that the police would have provided them security even if they informed the police? The fact is that India can be very unsafe for women.
      Twitter:

  11. Yesha Master says:

    Hi shaluji,

    I am From Anand, Gujarat.. I want to go trip for 3 or 4 days with my frnds.. And this is summer.. So i want to go at cool place.. So advise me Some places where i go and Njoy.. Nd i hope it will be not expensive places.. :P waiting for your reply..

  12. Aisha says:

    what do poor indian people wear? i need this information for a school project

  13. Leroy Becker says:

    We are assisting artist-historian George Stuart to create a three-dimensional portrait of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for locating a description of his physical stature, such as height, weight, etc.?
    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Leroy Becker

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Leory, this is very interesting question. we know someone who is an expert on Mughal history. We’ve connected with him and will get back to you as soon as I know something.
      Twitter:

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Leroy Becker

      I suggest you go to Khuda Baksh Oriental Library in Patna (Bihar). http://www.youbihar.com/page/patna

      They have rare collections of Persian and Arabic manuscripts. It also has paintings of the Rajput and Mughal rule in India. You can get a translator there as well.

      You might have to read The Padshahnama – Chronicle of the Emperor. A manuscript of the Padshahnama is also with the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library in Patna.

      They have rare manuscripts like Tarikh-e-khandan-Timuriya, Diwan-e-Hafiz and Diwan-e-Kamran.

      Tarikh-e-Khandan-Timuriya belongs to the Akbar era and carries the autograph of Shah Jahan. The manuscript was inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011.

      The Diwan-e-Hafiz contains the autographs of Mughal emperors while Diwan-e-Kamran has the autographs of Shah Jahan.

      You might have to look for Shah Janan Nama (autobiography).

      Generally, the Mughals were short and stocky as far as I have read. At the library, hopefully you will find someone who is well versed in their knowledge of the Mughals.

      Let me know if I can be any further assistance. I am currently working for further information on this which I will email you.

      Shalu
      Twitter:

  14. anubama says:

    hi shalu can you please guide me about patna since this is first visit for me and my sister who are there for a college admission. I would like to visit bodhgaya on my journey to kolkata so which bus i need to travel and the timings and fare details please.

  15. lori says:

    Hi Shalu what is your thought about bringing my 2yr old kid in India on December? Will it pose any problem to us?We will be joining a package tour so transfer will not be a problem. However I receive differing opinions about it giving me a hard time to decide. Everyone in the family will be going there so naturally I have no one to leave my baby with. Note that we live in the Philippines where the weather is tropical all day long.

    Thank you for any idea you can share about it.

    • Shalu says:

      Hi Lori

      Although there is nothing wrong with bringing a 2 year child to India, people travel with children all the time BUT with a child as small as a 2 year old, you will have to be extra careful.

      Some suggestion; Keep the child hydrated and bring your own baby food. Make sure they have the right immunisations, you will need to speak to your doctor,. You can bring a small push chair on board your flight as its allowed. Keep an eye on the baby 24×7, on trains take turns to keep an eye on the baby. Make sure you buy travel insurance for emergency.

      Hope this helps.
      Twitter:

  16. Mahesh Semwal says:

    I have been to patana , want to revisit patna along with gaya , rajgir & Vaishali along with family.

    Kindly suggest the budget & no. of days required.

    Regarding hotels, We don’t want to much of luxury, room / bathroom should be neat & clean.

  17. Nidhi says:

    Hi Shalu,

    It was great reading your article on Rajputs. I am a marwari girl married to a rajput boy. My in-laws family belongs to Rajputs of Jodhpur (Rajasthan). My problem is that my husbands family had been following bengali tradition, customs since ages and are not aware of the customs, rituals, festivals, puja, etc.of the rajputs religion.
    I want to bring our culture back in my family and need your help for the same as in your article i couldn’t find the exact details i wanted i.e. our important festivals, vrats(important fasts), the god that rajputs worship, customs to be followed during pregnancy and child birth, marriage, janaeu occasion, etc. Waiting for your reply.

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Nidhi

      thank you for your message. This is very fascinating and will require a lot of thinking. I suppose you will need to find common ground to integrate Rajput culture into the Bengali culture. You will need to tell them that you need to do certain ceremonies like the “janeu” and so on. You will need to convince them of the importance. You could take your husband’s family to Rajashtan and show them the palaces, forts etc and explain them the culture.

      The Gods that Rajputs worship are the same although Durga Puja is very popular in Bengal. You could introduce Rajput food such as roti and milk products (kheer), mutton, chicken. You could wear Rajputana clothes. You could keep a Rajputana Khanda (sword) and talwar on the wall at home to show that you are a Rajput. You can teach your children about Rajput history.

      You just have to think of introducing Rajput culture in the family and you need to practice many of them to let them know you mean business.

      Hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
      Best wishes.
      Twitter:

  18. Breanna chadwick says:

    hey shalu

    I was wondering if you could help me and tell me how to make a saree because my school is having a global olympic field day and my class has the country india and i really need to know how to make one and i need to know what else i should wear like jewlery,shoes,makeup,and expecially the dress. can you also tell me what indias culture is. Thankyou

    from Breanna Chadwick

  19. sabya says:

    can you give me any information about some haunted places in bhubaneswar of any poaranornal activity found in bhubanesware..
    plzzz let me know if there are any haunted places in bbsr and the place may be any college, school, or it may be a hotel or any this…
    plzz let me know about it

  20. leetha says:

    hi shallu,

    I am a lady from lucknow , would like to travel alone to goa for about a week in first week of October 2014 . will it be safe and can u suggest a moderate hotel to stay too

    thanks and regards
    annu

  21. Preet Sharma says:

    Hi Shalu,

    You are doing great work for foreigners and local tourist as well. Actually I am looking for hotel section on your website but unable to find best, budget, business, luxury, cheap and even worst hotels in india but couldn’t find. Could you please tell me why hotel section is not on your website?
    It’s very helpful for tourists if hotel is listed on your website.

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