I've lived in India for over 22 years, but have not even seen more than an ounce of it. No, I'm not whining, I'm proud of it. Even after 22 years of exploring the places around me, I'm yet to see all that this country has to offer.
Geographically, ethnically, culturally, and otherwise- India is rich in them all. No minor internal trouble laden pain brush can paint even a bit of black dot on the beautiful painting that my country is.
I've seen the beach off the Madras coast, never since the beautification, but I know how long and beautiful it can be! The coast on the East is so much different from the coast on the West. There is water, there is sand. But they are not the same. Each coast has its own beauty. The beaches extend long into the land on the East, shells and conches of every kind drawing the interest of many. The beaches on the West coast don't extend long into the land with sands... They need to make space for the canopy of trees lushing with a beautifully contrasting shade of green against the brown sand, black rocks and blue sea. What's more... They all meet at the tip of India's mainland - Kanyakumari! If you are sea-sick, you are missing out on so many things one element of nature has to offer you. I've been to the Cauveri Delta's Pichavaram, with its Mongrove trees. The real beauty of the trees can't be written in the books where you learn about them. It can't be touched upon by me in half a page of beauty-writing either. Half an hour of boat ride on the salty waters of the delta, a close look at the trees, a pluck of its "flowers"...they are some things to relish. Young or old, you will cherish!
Still, I've never been to the Konkan beaches, or the gulfs of Gujarat, or the delta of Ganges. That's about beaches, many of which I may not even know! There are so many rivers in India, importance of which have been engraved in our history! The Indus Civilization, reputed to be one of the earliest and one of the best planned, was Along the banks of Indus. So much is the river's importance, that it bears the roots to our country's name. Ganges, the holiest of rivers to many Many people. The one river where people try to visit atleast once in their life time, in a hope to attain salvation.
Numerous rivers flow like wrinkles across the face of mother India. Here, though, the wrinkles only beautify her. Most of the Indian population depends on farming, directly or indirectly. In most parts of India, wealth is spoken in terms of land area, and produce reaped from it each year. The people love their land. Wheat or rice, sugarcane or jute. They are proud of it, because, they feed the nation! Rice farms don the South, wheat in the North. A reason why the eating habits of people in the north and south depend more on wheat and rice respectively.
have I seen them all? Gosh, no :-( . Will I? Maybe! Every train journey is an eye opener to a new world that had evaded my eyes all life long!
Where there is no human habitat, there are forests, of various kinds! Where there are no forests, there are hills and mountains. Where there are no mountains, there is the desert. Where there is no desert, there is Rann of Kutch. The geography is so wildly different within a span of a 1000 km, that you might feel you are in a different land! Wildlife of each of them differ from every other place. Indian wildlife, flora and fauna, are unique. One has to be here to see it for oneself! The seasonal flowers make you wait to watch them bloom. The animals in their own home habitat are nothing short of beautiful to watch. The lions in Gujarat to the rhinos in Assam. The tahrs of Nilgiri to the snow leopard of Ladakh. The tigers of Bengal to the pheasants of central-India. The elephants of the South to the camels of the desert. I've seen peacocks dance for rain, and five miles later, vulture wait atop trees for their prey!
Have I seen them all? Umm, nope! There is just too much to see, i would need all 9 lives... Oh, I'm not a cat!
The cultural differences are so many. People have nurtured and polished their cultures for ages through history. What one wears in Kerala is completely strange to a person in Jammu. What one speaks in Bengal may not be understood in Gujarat. What one eats in Uttar Pradesh is out of ordinary for someone in Assam. We all came from different regions, different races, different colours, acclimated new conditions and made it our own over the ages, spoke different tongues, wore clothes to protect us from sun/rain/snow/dust as the case may be...and we all come now to pledge under one name - Indians.
India is probably the only country to state and allow the freedom of religion to all its inhabitants. Because, we are all the same. Most religions were born in India. Some religions came to India and were able to blend amongst other religions, like it was water in water. So many languages are spoken in India. Why, some may not understand what the other speaks. But, there will be a smile on your face if an Indian sees another on any foreign land. Just the picture of another Indian brings back the memories of homeland, mother India. Most languages have a common root- Sanskrit. Many words in English can be traced down to Sanskrit origins. And, Sanskrit is older than English. Though spoken very less in modern India, there is still a living village which converses only in Sanskrit. Heritage, my people, cannot be destroyed.
20th and 21st century India has all been about development, being a global competitor, sculpting an image of the nation worldwide. Many famous people have brought the attention of the world to India and spread the Indian view to the world. Long ago, the British called India "snake charmers", meddled with us, and took away jewels and called us a "poor nation". Now, Indians are amongst the richest of people. One of the richest man has most of his profits thanks to Indians. The Pepsi you drink, is reined by an Indian. The largest govt organization in the world is the largest manned railway network in the world, The Indian Railways.
Indian education is recognized world over! When a South African told me that she would want her kids to be educated in India, I understood how good an image we hold in front of the world. No, Indians are not recognized as "geeks" or "nerds". My American pen pal said she enjoyed Bollywood movies as much as Hollywood movies. Indian image what we hold in our eyes in India, is pretty much the same as it is in others' eyes. One Slumdog Millionaire is not going to make the whole country be stereotypes as that! A Punjabi who settled in Toronto who was once accidentally addressed to as "cab driver", brought Bollywood to the city, took 3000 Indians to each game of NBA played in Toronto, and showed the world who Indians really are. For your information, he is Hyundai's largest car-dealer of foreign origin in Canada.
We have given the world the healing powers of Yoga and Ayurveda, we gave the world the taste of spices. We built the timeless structures like the Taj Mahal, we gave epics to the world. We gave the world magics of mathematics, secrets of astrology and other natural sciences which were figured out way before man could speak English. It is not hard to believe that we come from a separate world, from the Gondwanaland, which was an independently floating continent, later to be attached to Asian's mainland. We form the Sub-continent with our neighbours.
In this 21st century, we pledge to become a developed nation as soon as possible! The Indian youth are the technocrats world over, bringing home to technical know how and knowledge pool to drive India to the top! And as we do, we will continue to nourish the heritage and culture that has been breeding for milleniums in our household.
I might not have seen the whole of India, but everywhere I see, it is India.
To all my friends world over, we welcome you to India. For, we consider tourists to be divine... Atithi devo Bhava!
Mera Bharat Mahan!