LEAPNOW Passage to India:
Traveling to India for the first time can be intense and overwhelming - like learning to swim by jumping in the deep end of a pool. Most first-time travelers to the Subcontinent are faced with two main options: paying up to $12,000 dollars for an expensive and overly structured group experience , or attempting to navigate the daunting challenge of India on your own by trial and error. And working with unknown middle-men is risky.
Sanghamitra Sarkhar gives Western travelers a reliable and low-cost option to make your entry into India gentle and successful. For a low one-time fee, she offers:
Airport pickup and orientation upon arrival in Varanasi
A welcoming presence to ease the shock of entering India
Internships placements, homestays, cultural excursions and a menu of structured activities and options
Knowledgeable assistance with travel, accommodations and reservations
A contact person and resource during your stay to help clear away obstacles and give support.
A native of India and resident of Varanasi (see map below), Sanghamitra has guided Westerners to live and study and volunteer in India since 2002. A fluent English speaker and member of the LEAPNOW staff for many years, she hosts our groups that travel in central India, sets up homestays and internships, provides vital orientation to the culture and smoothes the way for our students and group leaders. In addition to working with LEAPNOW students, Sanghamitra hosts individual travelers in India throughout the year. She ably fills the niche between expensive group travel and improvisational unassisted individual travel.
Sanghamitra has degrees in Indian History and Travel and Tour Management, and with her strong love of travel, culture, and meeting new people, she is a great point-person for Westerners entering the country and liaison between Indian and Western culture. Perhaps most important of all, after years of working with her, LEAPNOW can vouch for her expertise, reliability and integrity.
Specific Services & Costs: (all costs in US Dollars)
All of the services listed below are available to you by paying a one-time fee of US$450. ($300 is paid in advance through Western Union, and the balance of $150 is paid upon arrival in India.)
Airport and train pickups with in-country orientation (included with an internship placement)
Homestay Placements: Arranged with pre-screened Indian families for full cultural immersion for part or all of your stay. (An additional $7 per day is paid to the family for accommodation and two meals per day.)
Volunteer Internship Placements: At a variety of schools, working with people with disabilities, working with the very poor, teaching children of prostitutes, and more. Internship placements can be made in Varanasi, Sarnath and surrounding communities. If you'd like to volunteer while in India, it is recommended that you come for a reasonably long period of time, so that you can be useful to the organization that you work for. We recommend a minimum of two months.
Classes: Can be arranged to learn Indian cooking, yoga, vocal or instrumental music, Hindi language, stone carving, Bollywood dance, jewelry-making, Ayurvedic medicine, and more. Teachers for these classes are paid separately - usually at a rate of around US$5-7 per student per hour.
Independent Study Projects: Pursue specific interests around Varanasi. Excellent for independent studies for school and for pursuing personal interests. Examples include: Interview silk sari weavers, flower sellers, spiritual pilgrims, Brahman priests, and more.
Cultural lectures: Topics such as Hinduism, Islam, Indian women’s issues, philosophy, and more. Lectures are arranged by Sanghamitra, but paid separately - usually at around US$40/hour - this is best for groups. Live translation available (US$10/hour).
Cultural Day Trips: These include tours of temples and mosques in Varanasi, trips to Allahabad to visit the Kumbh Mela - an annual Hindu pilgrimage that is the largest peaceful gathering in the world, as well as the Panchkoshi Yatra - a pilgrimage to the various 1000-year-old temples on the outskirts of Varanasi. This trip can be done with a renowned professor who specializes in this particular pilgrimage, and can explain the importance of the pilgrimage, and the gods and goddesses worshipped.
Payment Information: Sanghamitra's fee is paid $300 in advance through Western Union, then the balance of $150 is paid upon arrival in India. Homestays, classes, lectures and interpreters are paid at the time of service.
When to come to Varanasi: It is best to come to this part of India between September and the end of April. May through August is hot and/or rainy. Varanasi is the oldest continuously inhabited city on Earth, an amazing source of spiritual and artistic richness. Varanasi is also a great jumping off point for further travel into north India and Nepal.
Contact by email: sanghamitras40 (at) gmail.com