It is a challange to describe india in words, it is too
complicated but worth trying. I would thus try my best to draw a rough
picture of this nation.
Planning to visit India, think twice , you got to be really tough and an adventurist. It can be a nightmare too. Indeed no one can understand india by merely visiting it for few weeks, you should plan for months along with a first aid box. No , I don't mean to scare you to death but it's different, just like the other side of a coin. You can't compare things which are inherently different, the history, culture, spirituality and the society.
India is the second most populated country, next to china but has more population density, the root of all the chaos! There is no room for individuality outside the four walls of your home, try going to a shopping mall looking too fancy. You might feel being scanned by a million eyes , everyone giving a funny look at you. Even if you were a non believer, it wouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes and you would be praying to god for a rescue helicopter. While roaming on streets, just follow your instincts, no need to say hi! to anyone just because he was staring at you or you just happened to block his way. People in India say Hi to someone they know or they would like to talk to, it is an initiator of conversation. Don't feel bad because people stare at you in public, it's normal for everyone and especially if you look different.
One of the toughest thing in India is to be alone, it's next to impossible unless you are willing to lock yourself in a room. Try travelling in a public transportation, you will find people discussing everything from world politics to the current price of milk. Indeed many times it's very entertaining and the journey time just dilates. I had travelled more than 1800 miles in a single train for nearly 40 hours but never felt bored, it used to be a family environment within few hours, people exchanging their food, playing games , reading each others magzines etc. A person who tries to be too much in himself is not much acceptable to society, but as I said you shouldn't expect your personal freedom when you are exposed to the society. Move with the crowd but with caution, it's like a phychological game, you have to identify the nature of a person by his looks, actions etc and then only move forward, otherwise you might land up in a lot of trouble also. There are all kinds of people, helpful, kind hearted and also cheats.
When it comes to cleanliness, things are quite dirty, i mean roads , streets etc are not thoroughly cleaned everyday. Also there is a lot of heat and dust. If you are in a big city like Delhi, you might be inhaling the pollution worth 20 cigarettes everyday. The best litmus test for pollution is the dirt on your shirt collar, don't forget to wash it every evening. To stay healthy in India, here are the tips (a) don't eat outside too much, so what should you eat, well I would leave it to you, do some R & D... (b) Take bath atleast once in a day , if possible twice. (c) Carry your own water, it takes time to adjust to the tap water but most of the indians have a tough immune system for all these things.
Driving in India is like playing a video game with the difference that you are actually in it! The rules of the game are fairly simple (a) You should always head towards your destination. (b) You can drive in any direction or lane as long as you do not hit anyone. (c) You can break any rule as long as it is safe to do so and there is no traffic police around. (d) To determine the right of way, follow a simple rule, the driver of the biggest vehicle has the right of way. (e) Horns are used for establishing communication between drivers on road. It works similar to morse code. Techincally your vehicle might be running on gas but practically it's the honk that moves it forward. Despite of all these India has very less fatal accidents as compared to other countries. The reason is simple , you can do all kinds of zig-zag motions on road but can never attain a killer speed, the roads and traffic are the natural speed limiters.
Geographically, one can find all kinds of variations, on one end there is great himalayan ranges and other hand there is huge desert. The climate varies from region to region, north is colder while south is hot, there is a place in north-east which records world's highest rainfall and there are deserts in rajasthan with virtually no rainfall. Almost every state has a different language and culture and yet they are all indians, a unity in diversity.
An indian society can be easily divided in three categories, (a) A Poor class , mostly uneducated (b) Middle class,mostly highly educated (c) Rich class, usually education is for maintaining status in society. But yet in general , the society is very conservative. Majority of the marriages in India are still arranged marriages, i.e the parents choose the bride/bridegroom. Love marriages are still very rare though are getting some acceptance in big cities.
Majority of people in India are Vegitarian, even those who do eat meat, the primary food is still vegitarian. Surprisingly many people in West relate vegitarianism to poverty. That might have been a reason for Hitler to be a vegitarian but it's incorrect with respect to India, infact stuffs like beaf are extremely cheap in india, though it's sale is banned. Vegitarianism in India is linked to religion and the culture of India. Even though on average, hindu's don't eat meat but then it varies according to one's sect. Hinduism could be subdivided into three sects, Vaishnavs ( those who believe in lord Vishnu,God of preservation ) ; Shakt's ( Those who believe in Gods of Energy and power) and lastly Shavs ( Those who believe in lord Shiva, the destroyer of evil). Amoungst all these only Vaishnav's are pure vegitarians. It is interesting to know why Hindu's are vegitarians, the ancient indians were not vegitarians , It was the philoisophy of Jainism (Lord Mahavira , 600BC) which influenced the people of the region. Mahavira first taught the concept of non-violence or having pity on life forms. So he called for sacrificing one's desire for eating meat.
There is another concept in hinduism which classifies food to a person's nature. It divides the instincts of life forms into two categories (a) Peaceful, innocent (b) Violent, aggressive. Usually all carnivorous creatures are classified as aggressive, reason being simple, they have to kill their prey and have to be rapid moving. Whereas all herbivorous creatures are peaceful. Similary it's a myth in hinduism that eating meat induces violent tendicies in human beings too which is not something to appreciate.
In India , never ask for Beef in any restaraunt, especially if it one that belongs to a hindu. Cow is a sacred animal worshiped by hindus, the very idea of killing it might evoke unfavourable responses. Many people find this stupid , but there is hardly anything in hinduism without any explanation. Indeed the term worship itself has a different meaning in hindu texts. Worship is considered more as a means of paying repect than reverence paid to a divine being, and respect can be paid to anyone. Since cow used to be a domestic animal, represents innocence , peace , it is the animal who sacrifices it's milk for man, hence it is worthy of all respect from man. Can anyone kill and eat his own pet?