India, plenty has been written and said about India, yet as much as you read, and hear, nothing can prepare you for the personal experience that travel in India actually is. An assault on your senses, ALL of them: sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. A cacophony of all these things, often from which only sleep is an escape. An extreme test and challenge at times, a mind-blowing, heart-opening experience at others. Almost no-one has neutral feelings about India. Ambivalence, yes. It's almost always love and hate, and often both simultaneously!
India is a world in one country; every state, every region a culture, climate and economy on it's own. All sewn together under the umbrella of India. A country of over one billion people, with incredible resources, and a rapidly growing infrastructure and economy, but a country of great divides, still adhering (albeit illegally) in many parts to the caste system, which ensures that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. A democracy with a secular constitution, where religion seems to be the main role player in life. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsi's and Jews… all wearing their religion proudly on their sleeves. This extraordinary diversity makes for a fascinatingly varied cultural experience for the foreign traveler.
India is a country of enormous cities teeming with people, animals, vehicles and litter. But equally a country of the village, small pockets of settlements, unspoilt nature, beautiful fertile farmland. Time spent in the city can be exhausting and trying and unpleasant. Time in the countryside, in a village, where "guest is king" is the adage villagers live by, can be a heart-warming, soul-inspiring experience. Both will, no doubt, be life-changing.
So, whether you choose to travel in the far north, to the Himalayas, or to the foothills, or to the plains, to the ancient cities on the banks of the Ganges, or to the jungles in the central states, which once teemed with tigers, or to the gorgeous Goa beaches, or to the Francophile eastern city of Pondicherry, or to the tea plantations of Kerala, know only one thing: nothing will be as you expected.
Mostly in a good way...