India from time immemorial evoked a picture of a land where gold, spice, aromas of different cuisine, the harmony of the sitar and tanpura, the grandiosity of the Himalayas and the last bastion of ancient civilization all cohesively create this exotic and complex country that yearns to be travelled. Many foreigners travelled here only to settle and become a part of the vibrant, colourful tapestry adding more depth to the culture. The Dutch came to Chandannagar, the Portuguese to Goa, the French to Pondicherry and the British… well, everywhere. Be it Vasco Da Gama or Babur or even Alexander the Great, India became a kind of Grecian Isle much like the Lotus Land. Many came and few wanted to leave.
Today over a billion people, speaking over 122 major languages, living across 29 states and practicing over a dozen different religions still co-exist in a functioning democracy that has the west biting their nails trying to figure out how we do it! This is why most tourists who come to India à la Eat, Pray, Love find that travelling to India is a journey in self exploration.
I could wax eloquent about the yoga ashrams and the ayurvedic massages and the vegetarian food but what I think makes India Incredible is the silence you will find in the chaos around you or in the anonymity of being one in a billion knowing that we are all but specks of sand in a desert, it is in understanding the most harmonious music which can be heard if we could train ourselves to listen to silence in the cacophony of traffic and a billion voices. It is in isolating the smell of a home cooked meal or of the fresh flowers from the temple from the numerous smells that waft around everyday. India is about humility – humility in understanding that every person and their history has somehow contributed to creating a profound story that is the country.
India is about understanding contrasts – the India of Infosys is the same India as that of Aryabhatta. A nuclear India is still also the home of Buddhism and the birthplace of numerous other religions. The India of desi beat and pop music is still the India of the dancing girl and the artistic temple sculptures. While we may no longer be the Golden Bird the British once described, India still is home to the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Indus Valley civilization, the lofty Himalayas and the mighty Ganges.
However, most importantly, India is home – you can come when you are weary or when you are ready. There will always be good food and warm people and you will always be a part of the tapestry which stands united but makes YOU unique.