How does one start to describe India, the country, or more importantly, India, the experience? The popular euphemistic descriptor of “developing nation” does not begin to describe the difference between our day to day life in the Western World versus the life of a typical Indian. Let me give you a few illustrative facts. There are 1.18 billion people living in India. 14 million people live in Mumbai, which is the largest city in the world. 50% of those 14 million live in slums and shanty towns. India holds 30% of the world’s total poor (those living below the poverty line) and of its entire population, 30% live on less than $1 a day.
Despite these sobering statistics, India has made significant leaps in the last decade towards economic development. They now proudly call themselves “largest democracy in the world”. The country still has a long way to go, to say the least. It is hard to ignore the glaring fact that most (if not all) of the splendor of India is encompassed in forts, castles, and mosques that are 300+ years old. In the coming years, India’s people, who are its most valuable commodity, will hopefully begin to rebuild the country, and give its citizens a beauty equal to that of the India of old. Until then, tourists can be privy to the India of the 21st century, a India that is both beautiful and dirty, poor and hopeful, fragile and proud.