Greetings from India

Two weeks into our journey to India and I am finally getting time to jot down some initial thoughts and impressions about this amazing, complex and incredibly hard to describe country. After travelling around at a frenetic pace, we have now been in Bangalore for three days where I am presenting a paper on leadership at an international conference on The Spiritual Challenge in Management.

Mark Twain (Following the Equator) may have captured India best when he said, “So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.”

First a little background information for those unfamiliar with this ancient culture where spiritual traditions remain strong and are an essential part of everyday life for many Indians. That said, much of the country is rapidly although sometimes haltingly moving into the 21st century. India’s maze of 26 states contains virtually every kind of landscape imaginable. An abundance of mountain ranges and national parks provide myriad opportunities for eco-tourism and hiking, and its sheer size offers something for everyone. From its northernmost point on the Chinese border, India extends about 2000 miles (3200 km) to its southern tip.

India is about a third the size of the United States which makes it the seventh largest country in the world. Living within its 1.27 million square miles are 1.2 billion people making India the second most populous country in the world. More than a million Indians are millionaires, yet most Indians live on less than two dollars a day. An estimated 35% of India’s population lives below the poverty line.

The Bengal tiger is India’s national animal. It was once found throughout the country, but now there are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left. Therefore, my wife and I were extremely fortunate to have a clear sighting of a large mature female tiger on our first game run at Ranthambore National Park.

Every major world religion is represented in India. In fact, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all originated in India. About 80% of Indians are Hindu. Muslims are the largest minority in India and form approximately 13% of the country’s population, the third largest population of Muslims in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan.

Hindi and English are the official languages of India. The government also recognizes 17 other languages. Besides these languages, about 1,652 dialects are spoken in the country. For someone like me who has a hearing deficiency, trying to understand the many variances of speech has proven to be quite challenging.

Apart from the fact that the country possesses great beauty and the people are extremely friendly and welcoming, India faces many challenges: corruption, poverty and pollution being among the most formidable. These problems are openly and frankly discussed in India’s media with regularity. In our next post, we will discuss one of India’s most serious problems – one that threatens much of the rest of the world as well.


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