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The Hindu: Life & Style / Metroplus: Thoroughly involved with India

This interview appeared in The Hindu written in September 2011

The Hindu newspaper

Aline Dobbie loves India that is immediately obvious when we met very recently. However clichéd she sees India truly as a ‘world in one country’.

A keen observer of social, political, economical changes in the country her books – India: The Peacock’s Call, India: The Tiger’s Roar and India: The Elephant’s Blessing provide contemporary interpretations on different aspects of India whose diversity she celebrates. "India is coming along magically," she says excitedly. Every progress the country makes delights her, just as every setback depresses her.

Sipping nimbu pani and relaxing elegantly in her white appliqué kurta from Khan Market in Delhi Aline is still very much a Scottish memsahib, epitomising the koi hai style.

Quicklook at India

Blending perfectly with the regal splendour of CGH Earth’s new property, Chittoor Kottaram Aline takes you right back to the colonial days when her father was an officer in the Indian army. Born in Bareilly and growing up in many North Indian towns she left India as a 16 year old only to return, year after year, since 1997 and pen three comprehensive books on India. The latest in her repertoire is an e book - Quicklook at India. Quicklook takes the reader in 25,000 words from 2,500 BC to 2010 comprehensively. Her travel writings and astute observations find her designated as India Expert by several tourism and travel websites. For her insightful comments and observations Aline was awarded the Pride of India Gold Award by NRI Institute in 2006.

Her current visit to Kerala, "after the monsoon" finds her and husband Graham soaking in the extended rains, getting a first hand feel of the real monsoon. Still speaking a good deal of Hindi she is charmed by the eco-friendly and responsible tourism stand taken by her hosts and by the hospitality industry of the State.

Incredible India

Despite finding the ‘Incredible India’ advertisement, most attractive she says that the follow up has not translated effectively. "Why is it that India gets only 3-4 million tourists in comparison to other Asian countries?" she questions. Placing her finger on the tourism pulse she believes that a lukewarm promotion of the country at its tourism offices abroad is the reason for not attracting enough travellers. There is a real need to push tourism overseas; she cites the fact that German travellers to India have increased only because of the proactive role of India’s Foreign Office there. Aline is glad that the private resort owners and hoteliers are marketing their properties assertively and in Kerala particularly one can see their success.

However, she warns our tourism sector to be mindful about the rising hotel tariffs in comparison to neighbouring countries. Burma is now eager and open for tourism and their friendly policy may find India missing out as travellers very often go for the next cheap alternative. In her second book - The Tiger’s Roar Aline wrote about India being one of the emerging global economic powers; those words were prescient written in early 2004. People find India endearing not only historically but socially too; the Indian Diaspora in the world has demonstrated Indians are multi talented. Its robust democracy should not however be jeopardised by corruption. Indians she finds are dismayed and disheartened by their country’s corruption.

India has divested herself of the snake charmer and the rope trick image but Aline believes that its spirituality still enchants the western mind. The "dichotomy of the bullock cart and the rocket on the moon," is still a wonder.

Restoration and conservation

She lauds the good work in restoration of heritage that has been undertaken in many places but urgent serious tiger conservation, about which she is passionate, has a long way to go. India can achieve anything when she puts her mind to the challenge and tiger conservation is critical. Aline is always at home in India to which she also has a great loyalty and huge affection.

Her late father Lt. Colonel Frank Rose of the 1X Jat Regiment who safely brought his soldiers back to India from Singapore during World War II in a daring escape from the Japanese in 1942 is still regarded as an Indian Army hero. Her own trunk is full of tales of the past and the new ones as she sees India bloom and grow.

Even the heavy downpour, lending a soggy edge to her two week vacation does not dampen her spirit – it is intrinsic to the land of her birth.