It was a women’s charity conference that gave Therese Casemore the perfect excuse to visit India in September and October 2013. Thanks to her volunteer work in the local Women’s Institute, the 74-year-old from Monmouth had been invited for the eight day conference in Chennai, in the south of the country.
Together with some 500 women from across the globe, Therese was part of an international collection of women’s organisations called the Associated Country Women of the World. The umbrella group meet every three years to help improve the lives of women worldwide by working in partnership with local charities and organisations.
And while the great grandmother was in this far-flung and somewhat exotic corner of the world, she decided to throw caution to the wind and combine the working trip with a holiday of a lifetime with two of her close friends – as she had never visited India before.
Talking to Staysure, she explained: “The conference was for eight days, but one of my friends asked me why we didn’t just don’t blow the budget and see some of the country too? I told her I had always wanted to see the Taj Mahal, so we booked a five-day tour of the Golden Triangle.”
This tourist circuit includes the three most visited cities in the north-west of the country; Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Connected by good roads and trains, they form an equilateral triangle and are approximately 200 to 250km from each other. As for the name, they are called “golden” for the abundance of cultural and historical splendour on offer.
Therese added: “I went to see the Taj at dawn, it was amazing and unbelievably beautiful. I will always remember it as the most satisfying and fulfilling sight I have ever experienced. If anyone has the chance to do this, take it. It is as marvellous as they say it is. There’s no way to describe the Taj, it is simply visual perfection on Earth.”
The Taj Mahal can be found in Agra and is one of the most instantly recognisable and breath-taking buildings in the world. It took 22 years and 20,000 stone carvers, masons and artists from across India and as far away as Turkey and Iraq to build the Taj. It was built as a tomb for the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who asked her devoted husband to build a great palace in her honour as she lay on her deathbed following childbirth. The epic task was completed in 1648.
As for what Therese thought of her Indian experience as a whole, she described it as an ‘earth shattering experience’.
“I loved every minute of it. I was completely taken out of myself – it knocked me sideways and I’m still reeling”, explained the charity worker. “I thought India would be noisy, a bit distressing, full of poverty and a bit smelly – but it wasn’t. To be honest it was extremely noisy, but it wasn’t miserable in any way. There was hardship and some appalling living conditions, but the people were not miserable, they were anything but.
“The colour, excitement and optimism were really uplifting and they just made the best of their situations by helping themselves.”
Therese, who trained as a librarian and did office work before retiring, said: “Our guide was great. He was Hindu and we spent a lot of time in the car talking about the differences between our religions. They also appreciate your age in India, perhaps because women don’t live to be as old as they do in the UK. They were very, very impressed that I had great grandchildren, and they were all boasting about how many offspring they had after hearing my story.
“Our guide hated that we said goodbye every day. He told us that the English say goodbye all the time, and that it would be better to say ‘see you later’, as goodbye means you will never see each other again. However, I told him on the last day that it really was goodbye as I was going back home. Then he told me that we will meet in another lifetime, as he’s a Hindu and that’s what they believe in. He seemed very certain that we will see each other again!
“The next big meeting is in Australia, when I’ll be 80. I’ve put my name down for it but you never know what could happen. I’ve got arthritis, but then again who hasn’t at my age? But as long as I’m still able to walk, I’ll be up for it!”
As for why Therese chose Staysure for her travel insurance to India, it was via a recommendation from the Women’s Institute.
“Staysure is very, very good for insurance when you’re coming up to the magic age of 70, in fact I’ve just renewed it,” she said.
“The level of cover I got was very comforting and it was actually recommended to me by the Women’s Institute. They said if you need insurance and you’re getting on a bit, then try Staysure!”
As for whether she would recommend a trip to India to others, she added: “Go! Absolutely go! It does not matter which area you go to, you’ll have a great experience wherever you are. It was like getting a jab of adrenaline.
“All of it was great, but the Taj was wonderful. If anyone gets the chance to do this – take it!”
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