Monday, April 13, 2009


Image of an Air India plane taxiing into its landing slot.Dear Gentle Reader,

My plane has taxied to a stop.

Your humble scribe is back from India.

It's 26°C (79°F) here in Hong Kong; I'm shivering after almost two weeks of 43°C (109°F) in the shade.


My recent Indian visit revolved around a multi-day, multi-city wedding, both the public bits and the private, familial bits.

Image of your Humble Scribe at day one, city one of the wedding, camera in hand...
That wedding took up most of my trip, but still left time for an attempted knife mugging (on, not by, me), an encounter with dacoits (an Indian class of robbers who plunder in gangs), a game of cricket with street kids, a birthday party for a God, and other sundry excursions.

But, before I start relaying stories, let's look at India.

India is bordered (from 12:00, clockwise) by China, Nepal, China (again), Bhutan, China (yet again), Myannmar (formerly Burma), Bangladesh, the Bay of Bengal, the Laccadive Sea, the Arabian Sea, Pakistan, and, then, by China one last time.

What is nearby but not touching?

India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands are close to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia (Singapore is nestled out of the way) and both Sri Lanka and the Maldives are also close to India's major landmass.

India possesses approximately 14,000 kilometers of land borders (8700 miles) and 7,000 km of coastline (4350 miles), which encompass about 3 1/4 million square kilometers (about 1 1/4 million square miles) of land and hold about 1.166 billion people.

Image of Indian citizens in Nagpur, India.

31% of those 1.166 billion people are less than 15 years old.

95% of those 1.166 billion people are less than 65 years old.

India, as the modern nation we know, is only 62 years old (created on Aug 15, 1947).

While that might seem young, India is old to most Indians; the median age Indian's citizens is 25 years and 4 months.

Image of an Indian Girl in Nagpur, India.

As an aside, about 127 new countries have been widely recognized since India's creation, the last one being Montenegro in 2006.

Where did those countries come from?

Forty-eight came from the UK's old colonies, dominions, and possessions. Twenty-one came from old French colonies and possessions. Fifteen came from the old Soviet Union. Twelve came from UN trusteeships. Seven came from Portugal's colonies (counting East Timor twice, even though Indonesia invaded it and held East Timor from 1975-1999). Five came directly from Yugoslavia and the others came in dribs and drabs from other places, even League of Nations trusteeships.

Aside -- over.


Back to those 1.166 billion people of India.

Currently, China holds more people within its boundaries than India, but India is expected to surpass China, by population, soon enough.

Of the top twenty metropolitan regions in the world, India and China both top the list with three cities, but India clearly comes ahead of China.

India has Mumbai (Bombay) at number 5, Delhi at number 8, and Kolkata (Calcutta) at number 14 totalling a combined population of 52.9 million people in those three cities alone.

In comparison, China has Shanghai at number 10, the combined Hong Kong/Shenzhen region at number 12 (and you need a Chinese visa to cross from Hong Kong into Shenzhen, so is it fair to count this? I don't think so, but let's use it anyway, for convenience...), and Beijing at number 19 totalling a combined population of only 44.95 million people in those cities (including two that are separated by a town Hong Kong and Shenzhen).

(And, if we don't count the Hong Kong/Shenzhen coalition then China would only have two cities in the top twenty global metropolitan regions [by population] with a total population of only 29.15 million people...)

Anyway, those 1.166 billion people Indians are scattered amongst 28 states and 7 territories--including some of those outlying islands I mentioned earlier on.

Officially, those 1.166 billion people have access to 23 official languages, recognized within India's constitution, including Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Meitei, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

India has founded five major religions including Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Ayyavazhi, and the great concentration of related practices that we in the West simply call Hinduism. Of course, India has also had Zoroastrianism (Parseeism in India), Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all arrive on its shores more than a millenium ago.

Image of a Shaivaite Sadhu in Nagpur, India.
India resides in all of our imaginations, but sometimes, with all those people scattered across a huge landmass, with disparate languages, cultures, forms of religion, cuisines, holidays, and ways of existing, it is hard to know if India really exists, on the ground, or not.

India can be like this...

Image of the Taj Mahal (in India) created by artist Jeff Gagliardi on an Etch-a-Sketch (Permission to use this image sought and received from Jeff Gagliardi).     CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO THE ARTIST'S WEBSITE!
(To see more of Jeff Gagliardi's art, click upon the image, and thanks, Jeff, for permission to use the image of your art.)

Or, India can look like this:

Image of a holy man, a sadhu, in a parking lot near the court for registering marriages in Pune, India.
India can be like this:

Image of a gang of men hauling a chunk of cast aluminum in Mumbai (Bombay) International Airport.
And India can be like this:

Image of a fleet of Ambassador (car) taxis at Mumbai International airport, waiting to whisk the middle class away to work.

India is big and diverse.

India, or, more accurately, Mumbai (Bombay) [13,922,125 people], Pune (Poona) [3,337,481 people], and Nagpur [2,420,000 people], all in the state of Maharashtra [96,752,247 people], were my towns for the last couple of weeks.


Let the tales begin.

Image of the god Ganesha, God of new beginnings, presiding over a food stall in Mumbai, India.

On Wednesday.



debra said...

Oh Intrepid Traveler, thank you for taking us to yet another place onthis amazing planet. Let the tales begin.

pattinase (abbott) said...

India always seems like the most colorful place. Thanks for the peek in.

David Cranmer said...

Great pics and intriguing info. I've had many friends visit India and the opinion is 50/50. However, none found it boring and many brought back amazing stories.

ThomG said...

Looking forward to the tales.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Look forward to hearing more about your trip to India Chris. I have been to the Far East a lot but not to India and I don't suppose I shall get there now as there is still a lot of the States i want to see and have been there the last few years. Sorry about the near-mugging - that is one of the hazards of going to these places isn't it.

Reb said...

Cliff hanger! Lovely photos, I can't wait to read more and see more photos.

missalister said...

For one who’s been out of touch, time, commission, for two weeks or so, this is a joy! The photos, the photos! Just gorgeous. The brush with crime, the clockwise trip, the history, the relgious sketch, the etch-a-sketch, the aside dish, all of it an enticing wind-up to Wednesday : )

Travis Erwin said...

Sounds like you have a plethora of good tales. I look forward to reading them.

lyzzydee said...

The heat would finish me!! Lovely photos!!

bindu said...

Interesting! Will be back to read the stories.

Cloudia said...

"multi-day, multi-city wedding, both the public bits and the private, familial bits"

WOW! This has been worth waiting for. You have an amazing life, and a (semi-) deranged mind. LOVE it!
Can't wait for your next post/pics!!
Aloha, Scribe!

Pica Miel said...

This one is the magic world that we have.
Our imagination always can come to so many incredible places, admire them, want them.
India has poverty great but it is riquisima in human different beings, in culture. A beauty your trip.
Tenes that photos to put mas Fondness as(like) always.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Looking forward to hearing the tale!

Sepiru Chris said...


Thanks. As it turned out, they didn't begin on Wednesday, an essay did. But Friday or Monday will surely have something...



David Cranmer,

India is a fairly special place, mostly, I think, because it is so overpowering that it makes you retreat into yourself--which is why so many of us find it so very interesting (ooh, the ego speaks)...


Hopefully on Friday or Monday they will come. Wednesday turned into a false hope...

Weaver of Grass,

I'd say that you have heaps of time left, Weaver, even if you want to spend the next decade exploring the USA...

Thanks for the comment on the near mugging, but it really wasn't bad at all. I rarely feel threatened.

Hi Reb,

Thanks, Hopefully Friday or Monday more stories and photos will come.

Yikes, Miss Allister,

I fear that I shall disappoint, today (Wed). Things are a bit crazy on th work front and there is very little time for the writing for fun front... so editing is non-existent.

I fear I tell far too much, today, more a discourse than a story, and although I love a good discourse, its audience is severely constrained. :)

Friday? Monday?


Hmm. See above. I may have shot myself in the foot, today (Wednesday).




Later this week or next then...

Cheers, Cloudia


Hola little honey. Thank you so very much. I am so pleased that you enjoyed the photos, too.

Dear Raph,

Hopefully by the end of the week, then.


Junosmom said...

I'd like to hear more of the Indian wedding customs. I am to attend a Catholic Italian American wedding on Saturday. That should provide a few blogs.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Junosmom,

I'm still debating how much to say about the weddings for my friends' privacy...