Instead, it is cacophony of colors, noise, scents and humanity. It’s made up of hundreds of provincial provinces with its own languages, religions, cultures and economies.
India is also a place where the richest people on earth live in exalted luxury while the poorest of the poor survive in hopeless squalor.
The economy is broken, the government is corrupt and the population is exploding. The dysfunctional social system can’t possibly cope with the endless challenges the population face. The country of over a billion people already is expected to surpass China as the most populous country by 2050.
The country seems like a lost cause. But somehow India does move forward. The entrepreneurial spirit is voracious. New businesses form by the second and everyone is ready to roll up their sleeves and work.
One more thing about India, it’s beautiful. The people are poor but they are always smiling. The belief in spirituality is as strong as anywhere on earth and it’s practiced in full public view. In the countryside the agriculture is rich and abundant, although farming methods are often primitive. The wildlife is unlike any place on earth, with the possible exception of Australia. And the landscape ranges from barren mountainous terrain to rolling fields to tropical rainforests.
There’s no possible way anyone could see all of India in one trip so Sophie decided to stay in Northern India. She took the long overnight flight from Botswana to New Delhi. Tired from the trip she was hoping to get some rest at a hotel near the airport. This turned out to be wishful thinking as the crowds at the airport shook her and her LUC8K handmade handbags like she was on a roller coaster. By the time she reached the hotel she was tired yet so tense from her first experience in India that she lay awake for hours before finally closing her eyes.
The next day she takes another long flight to Guwahati in the northeast state of Assam. It is known for tea and silk. From Guwahati, Sophie hires a driver for the four-hour trip to Kaziranga National Park. She is staying at the Diphlu River Lodge, where she received a warm greeting from Mr. Ashish. He is more amazed at the attractive handmade handbags as he is by having a giraffe as a paying customer. Sophie laughs.
Kaziranga contains several endangered species unique to Asia, including the one-horned Indian rhinoceroses, wild water buffalos, Bengal tigers and various species of Asiatic birds, including the Great Hornbill. It also provides one of the last wild habitats for Asian elephants.
Sophie feels right at home among the wildlife and the lush green landscape strolling through the national park, although she doesn’t recognize many of the park’s inhabitants.
Rice is the main agriculture product in Assam but in the stores Sophie notices that much of the rice is from other parts of the world. She’s told that rice production cannot keep up with demand in India as the population continues to grow. The country now has to import its rice to keep up with demand.
Inspired by her first visit to a national park in India, Sophie takes a flight back to New Delhi and then rides over to Ranthambore National Park. She stays at a farmhouse on the outskirts of the park. Immediately the owner warned her that a tiger was on the property and to stay inside. Sophie didn’t have to be told twice.
After the tiger moved on Sophie went out to see the peacocks. She loves seeing their plumage during mating season. And when the birds shed, she loves seeing how people use the discarded plumes as art and design objects. It’s a practice that dates back to biblical times.
It’s not only Sophie who loves these birds. Peacocks are a highly protected national bird in India and are considered sacred within the Hindu religion.
At the park Sophie was fortunate to get a rare glimpse of a sloth bear in the wild. Its long snout and shaggy coat distinguishes it from any other bear. Their long claws and inward turned feet make them slow footed, but are well suited to allow the bear to burrow its feet and the long snout allows it to reach the termites and other insects. When not digging for food, the sloth bear is known to eat mangoes fig, ebony and other fruits or flowers. Like all bears, they love honey.
India is big and complex. It’s a place that never sleeps nor ever slows down. There’s too much to do and see for one trip. A very tired Sophie returns to the farmhouse for a good night sleep with dreams of her new adventure.