Sunday, May 18, 2008

rebel brides and ex-wives

As India gets more wealthy, arranged marriage is giving way to more love weddings, and divorces.

Jason Overdorf
NEWSWEEK (May 17, 2008)

Not long ago, 19-year-old Sreeja Konidela returned home to Hyderabad from Delhi to attend a family funeral—but didn't get the welcome she expected. Konidela, whose father, Chiranjeevi, is a megastar in the Telugu-language film industry, had been disowned for eloping with Shirish Bharadwaj, 23, who was from a different caste. The two had married on live television last October in a bid to keep Sreeja's father from interfering—they were afraid he'd accuse Bharadwaj of kidnapping her, a common tactic in such cases. But their TV wedding alerted police and a mob of angry fans, who trailed the couple from the temple to the registrar and scared them so badly they fled to Delhi. Now the lovers were back, but Konidela's relatives weren't interested in reconciliation. Instead, she says, they forced Bharadwaj to wait outside and tried to browbeat her into dumping him so she could marry a groom of her parents' choosing. "They just tried brainwashing me," she says. "So I got out of there as fast as I could."

The story electrified India, where a rapidly modernizing society is changing its views on marriage. Tales of rebellion are on the rise. Now that fresh college grads can start outearning their parents right away and the rising influence of Western culture is empowering women, more young couples are challenging tradition. So-called love marriages were rare a generation ago, but now account for 10 percent of urban weddings, according to a November study by Divya Mathur of the University of Chicago. An additional 19 percent in Mathur's survey chose their own spouses but confirmed their engagements with their parents—choosing what urban India awkwardly refers to as "love-cum-arranged" unions. Meanwhile, more and more couples are meeting online or through friends instead of at torturous, parent-chaperoned tea sessions. The revenue of online matchmakers more than doubled from $15 million in 2006 to $35 million in 2007, and more than 12 million Indians—about half the country's Internet users—now visit matrimonial sites.

The changes aren't producing only love and bliss, however: demographers say divorce rates doubled to about 7 percent from 1991 to 2001, when the latest Census was taken. Lawyers affirm that, at least among urban couples, they've since climbed much higher, though they're still very low by Western standards. "India is facing changing times," says Pinky Anand, a lawyer who represented Konidela and Bharadwaj when they sought protection in a Delhi court. "Modernization, urbanization, access to information and globalization—there are no holds barred."

Traditionally, under all of India's major religions, all marriages were arranged by the bride and groom's parents. Unions were considered religious contracts between families, designed to uphold the social order and cemented with the gift of a virgin daughter. They were not seen as private agreements between two people in love, says King's College anthropologist Perveez Mody. With strict injunctions against crossing caste boundaries, arranged marriages helped Hindus to prevent lower castes from gaining status and made it easier to restrict them to hereditary occupations. "Many women got married before puberty, and to keep a nubile girl in the house was a monumental sin," says Delhi-based sociologist Patricia Uberoi. After marriage, couples moved in with the husband's parents to form what is known here as the "joint family." New brides had few rights and answered to their mothers-in-law, their husbands' siblings and his brothers' wives (if they'd been in the family longer). Today class and religious divides remain very strong, so in many respects the old system persists. Parents still work the family network and advertise in newspapers to make advantageous matches for their children—often without informing their sons or daughters until the process is well underway.

Now, however, a complex mix of political, economic and social developments is putting pressure on the old methods. The caste hierarchy itself is under threat thanks to urbanization and civil-rights reforms. India's city population has increased from about 20 percent of the total in 1971 to more than 28 percent today—bringing a new anonymity that makes it more difficult to identify a person's caste. Similarly, quotas for the lower castes in education and government jobs, along with the shift to an industrial economy, have allowed the lower castes to break out of traditional occupations. At the same time, young people—particularly young women—have become better positioned to assert their independence and become more exposed to Western influences, as Hollywood begins to compete with Bollywood, and Vogue and Cosmo hit the newsstands. Today's top engineering graduates, moreover, can earn as much as $30,000 within a few years of starting work—more than most parents ever earned—and even call-center employees make enough to defy their parents. Many of these new lucrative careers also require young people to relocate outside their families' ambit. And although a recent study by Watson Wyatt Asia-Pacific shows that women make up only 18 percent of India's urban work force, they now account for 38 percent of enrollment in higher education, and the number of women in white-collar jobs is increasing. As a result, they now enjoy more power and greater awareness of their rights, as well as more unsupervised contact with men. Together, these shifts have caused a decline in the number of joint families, a relaxation of the rules that once gave husbands' parents (but not wives') a dominant role in their children's marriages, and an uptick in children choosing their own partners.

Society is struggling to cope with the shifts. While the weakening of tradition has made relationships more equal, it has also led to higher divorce rates, as women object to archaic constraints and loveless unions. This is true even in remote corners of the country; according to India Today magazine, about a tenth of all child marriages now end in divorce. Geeta Luthra, a New Delhi-based lawyer who works on divorce and other women's issues, says that men are often the ones to split up their marriages when their newly empowered wives refuse to do housework, play the good hostess or kowtow to her in-laws.

Love marriages, meanwhile, are also leading to serious conflict, especially among India's rural populations. In communities like the Jat caste of rural Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the murder of couples that elope has become disturbingly common; at least five such cases made headlines in the last month alone. "If a lower-caste man is involved with a higher-caste woman, he is invariably killed. And the girl, whether belonging to the higher caste or the lower, is also almost certainly eliminated," says Prem Chowdhry, author of "Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples: Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India."

So far, the state's response to these changes has also been flawed. Officially, intercaste and interreligious marriages have been legal in India since 1872, almost 100 years before interracial marriages were legalized in all 50 American states. But over time, the law designed to facilitate these unions, known as the Special Marriage Act, has been twisted around to prevent love marriages. Under a 1954 amendment still on the books, couples are required to register their intent to marry with the court, provide the names and addresses of their parents and wait 30 days while the police verify that neither spouse-to-be is already married. Although in 2006 the Supreme Court directed police and other authorities nationwide to protect intercaste and interreligious couples from harassment, this filing requirement still helps parents locate runaway lovers and retrieve them, often by accusing the groom of kidnapping. (Since 2002, such charges have grown 30 percent faster than other crimes against women.) Though police acknowledge that in most of these cases the women have willingly fled with their future husbands, the cops nonetheless often track the couples down, throw the boyfriends (or husbands) in jail and return the women to their parents. Judges also often play a pernicious role, rejecting girls' testimony of consent or ignoring documents that prove she is of marriageable age.

India's divorce procedures similarly lag behind the times. The formal rules have become more liberal over the past 30 years—for example, by allowing Muslim women to sue for alimony and expanding the grounds for Christian divorce. Yet in practice, getting India's overburdened courts to process a divorce if one spouse objects can take up to 15 years. For women like 23-year-old Rani—a resident of provincial Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh—such waits can be unbearable. "I want to be divorced this minute!" she says. And because the glacial pace of courts often drives women to misuse laws against dowries and domestic violence to threaten their husbands into granting a quick settlement, the separation process can mean almost weekly trips to court and the police station, and constantly wondering whether one is going to be arrested and jailed.

Perhaps because of all these obstacles, even many of India's Westernized urban youth remain fairly conservative when it comes to love. Most still strive to find a partner who is roughly acceptable to their parents, even if not of their choosing. Often, when they do marry without their parents' blessing, they keep the marriage secret at first and continue living with their parents, only gradually introducing the new spouse as "a good friend," hoping to win over their parents before revealing the truth. If all goes well, a proper public ceremony then follows.

Even for those who do play by their parents' rules, however, things are slowly changing. Caste and class boundaries have expanded over time to permit more unions, and the old prohibition on the bride and groom's meeting before the wedding has been relaxed so that prospective spouses are now allowed to date or at least exchange phone calls before the big day.

The advent of online matchmaking has also helped. In the old days, young people often had no idea they'd entered the marriage market until photographs and résumés of prospects began arriving in the mail (parents aimed to avoid confrontation with their children by cluing them in as late as possible). Now as many as 40 percent of the profiles posted online on matrimonial sites are written by the candidates themselves, and industry experts say would-be brides and grooms—not their parents—make up a similar percentage of those viewing their pages. The result: today "the marriage decision is negotiated between parents and their adult children," says Delhi University sociologist Radhika Chopra.

One middle-class Delhi couple that wedded three years ago illustrates how such negotiations work. Arun and Deepti decided to get hitched in 2005 after dating secretly for a few years. When they approached their families, both sides objected. Though both are Brahmins, they belong to different subcastes, and Arun is from Bihar, considered a backward region, while Deepti grew up in Delhi; she is also better educated, speaks better English, and has a higher-paying job than Arun. But over time, sustained lobbying won over the families. "We both were ready to have a runaway marriage," says Deepti. "But we wanted our parents to agree. That is something which has not changed in India." Today, to show her respect, Deepti veils her face when she visits Arun's family in conservative Bihar, and Arun (a rare atheist) goes to temple to please Deepti's parents. Love, as they say, may still conquer all; but in India today, tradition remains nearly as powerful.

Monday, May 05, 2008

the pom-pom girls save the world

Baulk at the bimbo? When it's Americana, India will learn, this too shall be.
(Outlook India, May 12, 2008)

Not long ago, a columnist for the New York Times celebrated the arrival of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders in the Indian Premier League by remarking that this hallowed event must surely signal that India now more than ever looks to America, rather than Britain or Europe, as its model for cultural development. Apparently, while you are still playing cricket—a kind of baseball with a flat bat—you are now doing it in a satisfyingly snazzed-up American way.

As a red-blooded Yankee with a more than passing love for the steroid-pumped spectacle of the US National Football League (the one with armour and the funny-looking ball), as well as the more historic American standbys of Mom, baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, I felt my eyes well with sentimental tears. Not since the foul-mouthed hulks from Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment toured India has American culture had so representative an emissary as the humble and hardworking cheerleader.

Keep your Ramanujan and your 6,00,000 engineers a year. So you invented zero. Discovered it. Whatever. It's a number for losers anyway. For statistical and mathematical gimcrackery, we'll take our guys any day. Consider P.T. Barnum, the circus promoter who calculated, "There's a sucker born every minute." Or, of course, Earl Whipple, who invented the giant foam finger, aid to sports fans everywhere, that eloquently proclaims "We're Number One!" Anyway, what's math compared with Reality TV? Most of your software geeks are even now cracking open cans of Budweiser, and watching large-bosomed women wolf down plates of worms on Fear Factor. Yes, readers, I will say it. American culture has converted "pop" into a celebration of the dumb. Today's Elvis is Britney Spears. Genius!

Naturally, I was stunned to discover that not all Indians have greeted our scantily-clad emissaries with my own enthusiasm. Some members of Parliament have rashly sought to ban them, others to curb their freedom of expression by imprisoning them in pants. Clearly, this is both prudish and undemocratic. Worse, even, than rejecting our nukes.

It is obvious from America's present ascendancy in economic and political affairs that the dumb-beats-smart phenomenon is not limited to sports and entertainment—stupidity and vulgarity triumph over reason and good taste in all arenas. To prove this to the world, we elected George W. Bush, a former cheerleader. Twice! It is now time for you to fall in line. You're starting to get the hang of stupidity. So far you are doing very well with Indian Idol and Nach Baliye, and Bollywood has mastered the art of stealing Hollywood plotlines and denuding them of their last vestiges of intelligence. You even refer to Vijay Mallya as "doctor". Why baulk at the bimbos?

Most Americans—who, to be quite honest, remain perplexed about why Christopher Columbus was looking for India in the first place—are blissfully ignorant of this blatant slap in the face. But were they to read of it, perhaps at the end of an amusing story about a eunuch who has run for mayor or a village woman who has married an elephant, it would only confirm their convictions that we are embroiled in a battle more perilous than the one we fought against communism. The truth is, we can't help but feel we are beset on all sides, because we are! No matter which backward country to which we bring the joys of freedom and democracy—processed food, bleach blondes, and some other stuff to do with civil rights and powerful detergents and whatnot—the people greet our sharp-dressed marketing executives and our fresh-faced soldiers the same way: with suspicion and distrust. When even our cheerleaders—who did for the ballerina what Velveeta cheese spread did for brie—receive such a reception, it is no surprise we're always wondering, "Why do they hate us so?" Ours is an utterly thankless task.

Perhaps a bit of background is needed, if the cheerleader is to make a comeback in an India worthy of KFC. Once upon a time, American sports were primitive and wholesome, like cricket, and there were no cheerleaders for the professional teams. (Now only Major League Baseball remains sadly bimboless). Cheerleading began at the University of Minnesota in 1898. Through what now seems an obvious oversight, the squads were all-male until 1923. But as it evolved, a dearth of athletic activities for women made cheerleading into a sort of substitute sport for the fairer sex. The original purpose, that is the leading of the crowd in cheers ("Rah, rah, ree! Kick 'em in the knee! Rah, rah, rass! Kick 'em in the other knee!") has long since been forgotten. The crowd is better at organising its own cheers anyway, and the players have money and performance-enhancing drugs to keep them motivated. But high school cheerleaders—like Olivia Newton John's character Sandy in Grease, or more recently the characters played by Mena Suvari in American Beauty and Hayden Panettiere in Heroes—have become iconic representations of America's youthful exuberance: contortionist Lolitas in tiny skirts, fresh and innocent...or maybe not.

Still more progress was made in the Farrah Fawcett 1970s by the cheerleaders for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys ("America's Team") who scrapped the virginal facade and made cheerleading unapologetically sexy. In tiny white hot pants, white cowboy boots and cowboy hats, they merged the worldly glamour of the Coffee, Tea or Me era airhostess with Playboy's liberated (but still pliant) bombshell. Now, professional cheerleaders look and perform less like wholesome girls filled with school spirit than like the entertainers known in America as "exotic dancers". You may not understand, but this transformation has reached its peak in India, where they play a wonderful double role—first as women with remarkable (if surgically enhanced) bodies, and second as the white, blonde temptresses of the West—in encouraging India's much ballyhooed rise.

I dare say this important reinforcement of femininity—cheering for men, rather than playing on a team yourself—has been no less important than the Barbie Doll. But it is faltering in America, due to a foolish new emphasis on women's athletics. Not long ago, for instance, when a mother in Texas committed first-degree murder to make sure her daughter made the cheerleading squad, the court was not sympathetic. The judges failed to see she was defending a vital American tradition that is now under serious threat.

Today, it is mostly in nostalgic films and TV shows that the cheerleaders are the most beautiful and popular girls, ruling the school together with the male athletes in their varsity letterman jackets, tormenting the smart kids by pushing their heads down the toilet and similar time-honoured pastimes. In real life, sad changes are afoot. At the school I attended, for instance, the pretty girls turned up their noses at cheerleading, letting those who were plain and slightly overweight fill in the ranks. The guys who played guitar and could dance—even some "straight A students", what we call the kids who ace all the exams—had more girlfriends than the football players. Something has to be done to stop this perversion of the natural order of things.

Thankfully, as it did with the Miss Universe pageant, India has stepped forward to shoulder the burden, casting off benighted traditions like purdah and socialism. It is high time somebody said it. Like the editorial staff of the Indian Express, who last week decried the joyless opposition to the "shiny, happy girls who inject a bit of pep into the IPL".So brave it was, it reminded me of a red-white-and-blue declaration along similar lines: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

india on the fly

Fishing for the legendary Mahseer in the Himachal foothills of the Himalayas

By Jason Overdorf

MY FEET MUST BE BLEEDING, I KEPT THINKING. I COULDN’T know for sure because I was wading barefoot across a freezing Himalayan river in my underwear, and Prahalad, my leather-soled fishing guide, wouldn’t stop long enough for me to check. But there was no turning back. I was in the middle of the river now, and I really, really wanted to catch one of the golden mahseer that I hoped to find on the opposite bank. Besides, Prahalad had a viselike grip on my hand. And he had my pants.

The mahseer (Hindi for “great fish”) has a storied reputation from the days of the Raj, when India’s British colonizers introduced sport fishing to the subcontinent. Jim Corbett, the famous hunter, considered wrestling the mahseer more exciting, even, than stalking man-eating leopards and tigers. And Rudyard Kipling went so far as to write that the mahseer was a game fish “beside whom the tarpon is as a herring, and he who lands him can say he is a fisherman.”

To Atlantic anglers, those are provocative words. But they’re not unfounded. The
mahseer is one of the world’s largest scaly freshwater fish, capable of growing more
than a meter long and weighing up to 90 kilograms—though the record for one taken
with rod and reel, set in 1946, is 54 kilos. A beautiful fish with green and gold scales the size of silver dollars, the mahseer bears a resemblance to the Chinese carp (a distant relative) and the prized tarpon. An opportunistic predator, the Himalayan variety will strike flies and spinning lures, as well as live bait. It hits like a ton of bricks and fights like hell, too—sometimes snapping an 18-kilo test line like it’s cotton string. The golden mahseer, found in the rivers of the
Himalayas, is swifter and lighter than the monstrous humpback mahseer of south
India’s Cauvery River. But experts say the golden mahseer is more aggressive. It’s also harder to catch. As dams mushroom in the Indian Himalayas and local villagers
empty the best pools, you have to trek deeper and deeper into tiger country to land one of these legendary fish.

This spring, I traveled from Delhi up the old Grand Trunk Road with my 64-year-old father to try to hook one. The trip was organized by Himalayan Outback, a three-year-old company started by a young Indian outfitter named Misty Dhillon, whom a number of graybearded mahseer fanatics have called “the future of Indian angling.” Compared with those of the United States, Europe, or even South America, India’s sport-fishing industry is virtually nonexistent. After the British left India, interest in sport
fishing waned, and a rapidly expanding—and hungry—population stripped the rivers of fish. Something of a revival began in 1977, when Britons Robert Howitt, Andrew Clark, and Martin Clark made a comprehensive survey of India’s rivers as part of their
so-called Transworld Fishing Expedition. A few years later, Howitt convinced the Indian government to protect a section of the Cauvery River from overzealous meat fishermen, giving rise to events like the Mahseer Maharaja World Cup and a steady influx of international anglers. But the golden mahseer of the Himalayas is only now starting to get the same kind of attention, and Misty Dhillon is a good part of the reason why. A quick Internet search on the mahseer shows that he’s written dozens of articles about fishing in the Himalayas, and doggedly farmed them out to every forum, Web site, and discussion board he could find. Today he’s one of a handful of Himalayan outfitters (perhaps the only one) who makes the lion’s share of his revenue from catch-and-release fishing.

“A lot of companies here say they’re angling specialists, but they really sustain their businesses through wildlife tours or rafting,” he says. “We’ve focused on angling, and all our clientele is pretty much angling right now.”

Misty is also leading an effort to prove that the golden mahseer, unlike its fat-bellied cousin down south, will take a fly. “People used to say that you can never catch this fish on a fly, but I believed that you could,” he says, adding that he began experimenting with his own fly lures a few years ago. “That was important, because fly fishermen are the ones who have the money and the passion to be able to afford to come to these wild areas. Now, pretty much all of our work is fly fishing.”

The survival of the golden mahseer could well be at stake. India is hard at work on dozens of hydroelectric projects in the Himalayas, and locals still fill their larders using dynamite, gill nets, bleaching powder, and truck batteries—practices that kill every fish in the water, big or small. As a result, the mahseer has already disappeared from waters in heavily populated areas like the Thumaria, Deoha, and Dhora reservoirs, according to a recent report by the Wildlife Institute of India.

Outfitters like Misty have so far proven to be the best defense. By leasing the fishing rights to sections of rivers like the Yamuna, Ramganga, Ganges, and Alaknanda, angling and rafting companies have assumed responsibility for curbing pollution and poaching. “In prime habitats—our clients want to go to the finest areas—companies like us are doing a lot of education,” Misty told me. “Our main strength is that our staff is all local. When they go to the villages and say, ‘Look guys, if you dynamite you’ll probably make 500 rupees for every 10 fish that you kill, but if
you get a job with Himalayan Outback, you stand a chance of making a lot more money,’ it really means something. Where we are operating, people are actually seeing the benefits.” So far, no detailed studies have been undertaken to track the results. But the condition of the rivers near outfitters’ fishing beats and rafting camps suggests that the scheme is working.

For our trip, my dad and I hiked about two hours into the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh to reach Misty’s fishing camp on a tributary of the Yamuna—a location that he wants to keep secret from his competitors. “It’s a fishing expedition in the real sense of the word, unlike, say, Alaska, where you’re flown into a remote section of river and you’re fishing out of a lodge,” he’d told me before I left. “Here, you’re trekking and experiencing a lot of local culture. It’s more of a real expedition.”

Even with porters carrying our gear, it was a pretty tough slog up and down the steep, narrow trail that the local villagers use to walk to the nearest road, and now and then I asked myself whether I had overestimated my dad’s physical limits. But Misty was right about the beauty of the place. The psychological fatigue of seven hours swerving around trucks, minicabs, and bullock carts on the Grand Trunk Road evaporated in the crisp air, and looking down at the snaking, green-and-blue river from the track, I made a mental note to escape the noise and dust of Delhi more
often. The year before, my dad and I had made a trip out to central Oregon to fish for trout on the Deschutes River; Misty’s “secret” tributary was just as beautiful.

The fishing camp was comfortable enough, if rustic. Accommodations were canvas, army-style tents large enough to stand up in. There was a shower tent with heated bucket water for bathing and another tent with a freshly dug latrine, a pile of dirt, and a shovel. No 400-threadcount sheets; no electricity. But the beds were soft enough that I never failed to get less than nine hours of sleep, completely dead to the world after the sun went down. We never had to lift a finger, and the camp staff looked after us as expertly as a moderatepriced Indian hotel. A cook equipped with a propane stove, two dogsbodies, and running water from a hose attached to a mountain spring a few hundred meters up the hill managed some fairly impressive culinary feats for the bush, though I will say that “continental” fare should be struck from the menu by all trekking, rafting, and fishing companies throughout India (as well as most hotels). Spaghetti bolognese was never meant to be hammered out of ground mutton and sprinkled with chips of goat bone.

The only problem was one frequently encountered on this sort of expedition: no fish. I’d been to the Ramganga River in April the year before—not for a fishing trip, unfortunately—and I’d seen entire schools of mahseer hunting in the shadows along the bank. No such luck this time; February to May is supposed to be a strong season, but the winter had been unusually long, and a week of sporadic rainstorms had lowered the water temperature even further. Despite our best efforts, fishing hard for four or five hours a day over the course of two days (one day was wasted as we hunkered down to weather a freezing drizzle, finally declaring it a write-off and returning to our sleeping bags), we never felt a tug, never glimpsed a ripple, and certainly never hooked a fish.

That’s probably why I agreed to cross the river, against my better judgment, even though I hadn’t thought to bring along a pair of wading shoes. As with all stupid decisions, I knew it was a mistake before I started out. But I blundered along anyway, and before long I was hip-deep in ice-cold water, dead certain that I was
doggedly turning my half-numb feet into hamburger. And I still didn’t get a nibble.
The only upside? When I finally hobbled back to camp, my miraculously unscathed feet
were toasty warm for the first time on the trip. Come to think of it, they were burning hot.

Most of the mahseer fishing camps in the Himalayan foothills are in Himachal Pradesh or Uttaranchal, a 7- to 10-hour drive from Delhi. For Himalayan Outback’s Camp Mahseer—the fishing spot featured in this article—the outfitters will meet guests at the New Delhi airport and travel with them by train (a comfortable three-hour trip
on the Shatabdi Express) to Ambala, from where you’ll travel another hour by car to the trailhead. From there, it’s about a 90-minute trek to the campsite; this takes you over some steep hills, so even with porters carrying your gear you need to be moderately fit.

The official seasons for golden mahseer fishing are October– December and February–June, depending to some degree on the timing of the monsoon. Like salmon, the Himalayan mahseer migrates to spawn, traveling upriver once or twice a year, during which time they have little interest in feeding. The major migration takes place in
July and August, during the peak of the monsoon and snowmelt, when the rivers are at their highest levels. Weather-wise, February through early May is the most comfortable period for fishing.

Himalayan Outback (91-987/ 280-6359; offers a six-day Classic
Fishing Adventure at Camp Mahseer, on its secret Yamuna tributary, from US$200 per
person per day, depending on the season. The outfitter can also arrange a variety of
different float trips on the Ganges, Yamuna, Alaknanda, Ramganga, and Mahakali rivers, ranging from 5 to 15 days.

Another reputable operator, Otter Reserves (91-124/256- 4794;
focuses on fishing beats in Pancheshwar (on India’s border with Nepal) and the Ramganga Valley, outside Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal. Camp conditions and offerings are similar to those offered by Himalayan Outback.

For more comfortable accommodations, consider Vanghat River Lodge (91-971/924-3939;; doubles from US$70 plus US$50 per day of fishing), which has five spacious cottages on the Ramganga River. –JO