@Vidya: India is truly amazing! I have lived and worked in India in 2005, and traveled there most recently this January, February. I have been to many, many places, and love it more then words can express. Hubby and I hope to get back there quickly (he’s never been, I went this Jan with my friend).
That said, India is one of the hardest places in the world to visit and to travel in. It is an overwhelming assault on your senses. It is so loud, crowded, busy, hectic, inefficient, smelly. Garbage is overflowing in the streets, that are crowded with cars, animals, people, bicycles, rickshaws, beggars. As a westerner you are almost always being harassed. People want to talk to you, take photos of you and with you, touch you, have you touch them, laugh at you, hold their babies (like it’s good luck).
For me the good definitely outweighs the bad. But you definitely have to go with a sense of roughing it, (even luxury hotels aren’t luxury like they are in the US/Canada), a sense of nothing is going to work the way you expect it to. Even booking a train ticket is a daunting task. Also a just go with it attitude.
Times that are good in India are the best, but there will be low times. I’ve cried in a rickshaw just becoming overwhelmed with the honking and harassment. It is not a trip that everyone will enjoy. But those that do, are hooked, and will always want to go back.
People are really nice, and English is widely spoken. The food is AMAZING!!!!!!! The temples are ornate, and beautiful (even though I still don’t get a lot of what they mean).
I do think if you haven’t traveled a lot before, you may find it more difficult. But you may also not have expectations. I would recommend bringing only a backpack (and pack light, you will buy TONS). You can buy everything in India. Even brands you are familiar with from back home. And it is cheap (though getting more expensive), and you have to haggle.
Please ask any questions. I love talking about India!