Originally Posted by MetroStyles
Also, I've never heard of any of my friends not being able to deal with India? I expect lots of poverty...but obviously I do not plan on spending time in the slums. I believe I can handle a lot but who knows, you're getting me worried. I'm certainly not some well-to-do bourgeoise that has never left my estate. I've seen some poverty in the Philippines. Still though - please do give me details of what might be overwhelming. You can PM me if it's more appropriate.
First, the poverty will be everywhere. India doesn't divide neatly into slums and non-slums. Upon exiting the airport, you'll have begging mothers showing you their malnourished babies. I had instances where a totally normal person (i.e., middle-class looking, neat) people would come up to me and tell me they were starving to death and asking for food when I was done. And as slums go, there will be people living in the streets, on sidewalks, between buildings, so it's not like it's avoidable, even if you were on a four-star bus trip.
Second, it's simply an intense place. Everything, from the smells, sounds, food, sanitary conditions will be among the most intense you've experienced. It may have changed, but the "baggage claim" area of the Mumbai airport alone almost got me to turn around and get back on my jet -- dozens of people yelling at me for any number of services I didn't want. The touts are the most aggressive I've ever seen by far, barely avoiding physical violence. At stops, trains will be invaded by a swirling army of children cleaning the floors with their clothing, beggars with horrifying disfigurements, and dozens of peddlars all screaming for you to buy tea or food. Yet, in 2 minutes, they'll be off the train and you'll be on your way again.
It also teaches you that this is what the world is truly like, or was like everywhere else. It's truly revealing to see how one reacts. This isn't slum dog millionaire with a tidy ending; it's real life. As long as you want to have a transformative experience, it's worth it.
As for Globetrotter's advice, I went to India before embarking on the rest of my Asian vacation. It made the rest of Asia down-right lame. As said before, Thailand will feel like Florida and Hong Kong like Chicago.