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.
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.
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.
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 border...my 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.
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...
(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:
India can be like this:
And India can be like this:
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.